Spearmint – ‘Are You From The Future?’ (hitBACK)
Most music nuts will have a list of acts that, past or present, they feel should have a far higher profile. The German philosopher Gottfried Liebniz may have argued that we live in the best of all possible worlds, but he wasn’t a music journalist. One of the acts that should have had a far higher profile are, of course, Spearmint, a band who paid tribute to this on their seminal early single ‘Sweeping The Nation.’ That was over twenty years ago, and Spearmint continue to make awesome records. Sure they still have day jobs – but one of the things about releasing your own records is that you don’t have to worry about A&R men (and they usually are men, let’s be fair) muttering about not hearing a single or it having to be remixed for the American market.
Over the course of twelve songs on a 45 minute album, frontman Shirley Lee and his merry men demonstrate just how great they are at writing songs. Sure they’ve been linked with the indiepop movement, but there’s a lot of soul and disco influences on this album, too. Not in a ‘there’s always been a dance element to our music…erm, honest’ sort of way, but in a way that feels totally natural and honest.
Album opener ’24 Hours in A & E’ sets the tone, with its use of strings, not as window-dressing or ‘let’s get on Radio 2’ but as soul and disco do, to increase the urgency and passion, mixing gorgeously with a wah-wah guitar. ‘Senseless’ evokes Orange Juice’s comment that they wanted to mix the Velvet Underground with Chic and runs with it. It also features the immortal line ‘you wouldn’t give away your mint original pressing of ‘(White Man In) Hammersmith Palais’ would you?’ amongst all the rhetorical questions posed within. Other tracks that seek to bring the album onto the dancefloor are ‘St. Thomas In The Darkness’ and closer ‘It Won’t Happen To Me’ the latter with reflections on all the things that Shirley thought…well, you get the picture.
The album title comes from the second track ‘Pick The Papers Up.’ ‘I’m sick of hate being put in front of me’ sings Shirley and it’s impossible not to sympathise, especially if you live in the UK. Singling out The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express for particular criticism, Lee has explained that ‘The title refers to the younger folk, who will see a future that I won’t. I can only apologise for what my generation and the baby boomers are passing on – the sooner the current teens and twenty-somethings are running the world the better, as far as I’m concerned.’ How much does that some up the present here in the UK?
So sure, they still seem to be a (frustratingly) well kept secret. But as someone who receives more albums to review than can possibly be heard or written about, this is one that got played frequently in the runup to writing the review. I’m likely to continue doing so, as it’s one of the best albums of the year…
Are You From The Future? is released on hitBACK on November 1.