Spector – Moth Boys (Album Review)

The last couple of years have been an interesting time for London-based Spector. Following plenty of hype upon the release of 2012’s debut album Enjoy It While It Lasts, the band embarked on a slew of tour dates which eventually culminated in the departure of guitarist Christopher Burman mid-2013. The period that followed saw Spector regroup as a quartet and slowly work on a sophomore release which, two years later, has finally been released. Moth Boys is the sound of a more mature, equally anthemic Spector which is still carried by Fred MacPherson’s tenor vocals. Read on for a full album review.

The record opens on early single All the Sad Young Men, which rings in proceedings on a demure tone. “I don’t want to make love, I don’t want to make plans” muses MacPherson over a synth-heavy backing which encompasses spiralling synthesizers and rough bass. The song builds up in urgency along the way, with MacPherson’s strong vocals being carried majestically by his instrumental accompaniment. New single Stay High follows it up, encompassing a major chordal progression and MacPherson’s witty, relationship-tinged lyrics. The chorus leans considerably more towards Spector’s anthemic side, making use of powerful guitars and arena-ready wails. “Stay high, you know tomorrow is a lie” sings MacPherson, before the track takes a turn for the more upbeat as it progresses. Believe subsequently utilizes an array of electronic drums, vocal effects and grisly synths on a track which demonstrates Spector’s newer direction. “Baby I’m sorry” claims MacPherson ahead of a keyboard-heavy chorus which sounds almost nothing like Spector’s debut album. It’s more of a mix between a somewhat more upbeat Joy Division, blended together with modern day synth-pop. Don’t Make Me Try adds another hint of contrast to the record as it goes back to the sound of Spector circa 2012 – i.e. progressive guitar lines, faint synth chords, MacPherson’s fragile vocals. It would fit in extremely well on Enjoy It While It Lasts, even though it also still carries a newfound sense of maturity which Spector have managed to incorporate into their new songs. Although their debut album had hints of maturity, it tended to lean towards faux-maturity. This time round, though, Spector sound like a group of well-versed, grown up young men.

The double header of Cocktail Party/Heads Interlude introduces more electronic elements to the (supposedly) trademark Spector sound, something Moth Boys has emphasized and occasionally pushed to the forefront of Spector’s music. Although this isn’t a place to compare records, it is worth noting that the departure of guitarist Burman has definitely signalled an influx of more electronic elements to Spector’s sound. A slap bass also features, adding an almost danceable edge to the song. The second half of the song, Heads Interlude, is thus a cacophony of synthesizers which sound straight out of the 1980s. “I can’t keep up with the money that you’re making” sings MacPherson as his band follow him up with falsetto-d vocals. Bad Boyfriend heads back down the balladry path, with MacPherson wallowing in his own self-pity as he berates his status as ‘boyfriend material’. It’s a typical Spector ballad, utilizing calm verses and contrasting them with huge choruses and an even huger ending section. It’s probably the most anthemic song on the record, even if it does feature the corniest lyric Spector have ever written – “my battery’s 10%, let’s generate content”. Shoddy lyrical choice aside, Bad Boyfriend is quite the emotional tearjerker, something which MacPherson and co. have always done well. The short-but-sharp Decade of Decay follows, having been a song in creation and played live for over two years now. When it was first released back in 2013, it stuck out like a sore thumb alongside Spector’s older releases. Now, though, the song has been given extra guitars and has been made to sound more fitting to the band’s current sound, something particularly down to the explosive ending it possesses. Kyoto Garden’s bubbling synths and haunting melody add an oriental atmosphere to proceedings, with MacPherson’s vocals heavily bathed in effects-laden vocals. His voice has never tended to sound this way, making the vocals sound rather out of place not just on Moth Boys, but also on the track itself. The track eventually progresses nicely, although it probably still remains one of the weaker tracks on Moth Boys.

West End slowly but surely brings the record closer to its ending, encompassing computerized bleeps and odd vocal effects to make for another ‘you went with him, while you could’ve had this’-track. Although MacPherson is a great lyricist who really does pull strings at the core of human relationships, West End does sound rather forced and laboured. Using, on the other hand, opens with a euphoric, synth-led introduction that makes for a powerful instrumental section. As the instruments pulsate lightly alongside MacPherson’s vocals, obscure basslines and a cacophony of drugs-related lyrics help the song progress. MacPherson hasn’t shied away from singing about drug use, which may in part be a reflection on the life of the privileged West London. “Everyone’s using” he repeats during what seems to be the chorus, with the instruments all centring on this line to spark further instrumental build-ups. A lone guitar enters the frame later on, accompanying a demure backing vocal tone. The record ends on Lately It’s You, which is one of the longest Spector songs to date at a length of just over five minutes. Intentionally theatrical strings and absurd instrumental flashes flourish the intro, before MacPherson’s vocals are accompanied by waspy synth melodies and Daft Punk-esque vocal flashes. It may be another downtrodden love song, but it’s one completely and utterly in the vein of Spector’s new direction. As the solo enters proceedings and adds a layer of euphoria, the song eventually careers head-on towards an ending so massive and powerful that it may even be the best thing Spector have ever done.

Although all the hype that surrounded Spector’s debut eventually (and unfortunately) died down, you have to give it to them for continuing and coming back better than ever before. Spector may not be the big band that everyone hoped they would be, but they’re still alive and well and doing exactly what they do best. Jack Parker


Moth Boys is out now via Fiction Records. Listen to Bad Boyfriend below.