Album Review... Spector - Moth Boys
You can understand why Spector toyed, even jokingly, with calling their sophomore album ‘The Technocracy’. We’ve reached this odd crossroads where the tech we build is advancing quicker than we can as a society, and thus it dictates how our interaction develops. Ferried between tinder dates by an Uber whilst delicately cultivating a social media presence; it’s uncertain if this is what T. S. Eliot envisioned a century ago when he pinned Prufrock against his wall, but we’re here. Instead Spector settled upon Moth Boys, which isn’t some hideous Silence of the Lambs reference but a forlorn commentary on youth by singer Fred Macpherson: “I’d see these moths with miserably short life spans flying into the lightbulb. It seemed to be an apt metaphor for a young person’s life. You spend all your time hurtling toward these great temptations – whether it’s money, alcohol, relationships, drugs, ego, whatever. And ultimately they fuck you up.” For a frontman previously reviled for his glibness it’s a surprisingly poignant turnaround, and this isn’t the only change Spector have undergone since their 2012 debut Enjoy It While It Lasts. The departure of guitarist Chris Burman in 2013 triggered a major shift in dynamics, swapping up instrumentation roles and pushing the band away from traditional indie-rock and into New Order territory. It was a ballsy move given that their fan base was built upon championing rowdy bombast, and a poorly recieved second album spells the death knell for indie bands. Opening number All the Sad Young Men is proof that the risk has paid off immeasurably for Spector; a beautifully executed resignation to apathy. The industrial-does-glam synths chug from the start, building to a chorus so monolithic that’s it hard not to imagine Spector under stadium lights. It’s sincere and righteous in its sadness, and also probably the closest anyone has come to touching Common People in the sense of the social anthem.
Understandably many couldn't stomach the cavalier zeal of their debut, which favoured easy gratification over gravitas. One area this cropped up in was Macpherson’s writing, which desperately sought out 'I wish I'd written that' moments, compromising entire songs in pursuit of these. Thankfully on Moth Boys he’s allowed more of himself to occupy the songs and they're richer for it, pondering existentialism without slipping into narcissism. You get to see the Spector that their debut wouldn’t allow them to be; out of shame or just self-compromise, and this admonishes them of those vices. The teary-eyed Don't Make Me Try is Mr Brightside in the age of subtweeting, and Kyoto Garden is astonishingly brilliant pop suspended in an electronic twilight stupor - Spector have never sounded better. Thankfully Macpherson retained his appetite for massive hooks: Bad Boyfriend is Spandau Ballet infected with Depeche Mode’s pessimism, and 2013 cut Decade of Decay has been polished into a glorious slab of indie technicolour.
Personal failure, primarily in relationships, is the theme connects much of the record, which is ironic given that the majority of it is a success, and only falls down when the band are not striking out forward on their own terms. Cocktail Party is charming but feels uncomfortably indebted to Blood Orange. There’s no doubt that Dev Hynes has been an architect in Spector’s transition but the track is just so aggressively funky to the point that it’s a turn-off. West End entertains with its fidgety keys and textbook soaring chorus, but is a relatively safe throwback to album one, and is spoilt by the puerile line "He bought you a necklace and a flight to Japan / Fuck him." On the one hand it's criminally lazy writing, and on the other it could be acceptance of the very human truth that everyone's capable of being emotional fragile, and sometimes also a bit of a dick. Either way, the term "Vegan smackheads" will live forever.
All The Sad Young Men opened the Pandora's Box of shit that 21st century social developments have spawned, with Using mournfully exploring the disconnect we're all experiencing by putting it into the context of a worsening addiction. Hope has been more or less abandoned, which is where Lately It's You steps in. It’s the dramatic finale to Moth Boys and Spector's New-Wave Odyssey; a heady dash for the album finish line. After the emotional bruises that Moth Boys catalogues, it’s the sound of coming out the other side, the protagonist’s head bobbing above the water’s surface. There’s some kind of comment to be made about the band plugging an album about digital addiction and social apathy on the very platforms that cultivate these issues, but that’s overshadowed because frankly no one imagined Spector would produce an album of this calibre. It's delightful, exhaustive; a nostalgic love letter and bitter diatribe to the Netflix n Chill generation, built on a foundation of crumbled neon.
Listen to All The Sad Young Men below.