In October 2017, Fischerspooner played their first show after nearly nine years out of action. The New York City venue that hosted their G-stringed comeback would only let them have political banners – such as “FASCISM IS AN LGBTQ ISSUE” and “DETHRONE TRUMP WHITE SUPREMACIST-IN-CHIEF” – if they were being held by their dancers, and frontman Casey Spooner later revealed, “It really felt like I was dealing directly, and shockingly in New York City, with conservatism and homophobia. You don’t believe it until it’s happening.”
‘Sir’, the fourth album by the electroclash duo, arrives nine years after 2009’s ‘Entertainment‘ and, unsurprisingly, has no place for either conservatism or homophobia. Ecstatic opener ‘Stranger Strange’ wastes no time in detailing an anonymous hook-up, with Spooner yelping, “Yes, sir! Can I call you sir? You make me feel so good.” Over the pulsing one-note synth line, there’s a sense of real purpose in the way Spooner loses himself, exclaiming, “You know what I want“.
Things get more provocative on latest single ‘TopBrazil’, where Spooner straddles a dangerously drunken synth line to snarl, “I’m not opposed to humiliation“. More artful is Spooner’s ode to Grindr, ‘Discreet’, on which Spooner parrots a list of his chats: “Sup? / Sup / Hi / Hi / Hello / Hello / Hey / Looking? / Looking? / Looking? / Looking? / Tell me what you’re into“. Then, soberingly self-destructive, “I could be a thing / I could be your thing.”
When Spooner really wants to trip you up with something this honest, you will fall – and accordingly, the more unapologetic and direct the lyrics, the better the songs. A string of anodyne cuts (‘Everything Is Just Alright’, ‘Get It On’, ‘Dark Pink’, ‘Try Again’) do a disservice to the album’s lewd peaks: they find Spooner being ostensibly crude, but going on to riff on dull mantras such as: “Everything-ing-ing, everything is just alright” and “Who would have known we’d get it on?” ‘I Need Love’ begins with a promising glitchy brazenness before swerving off into woeful chipmunk vocals that laughably repeat, “I can’t find me / I need love“.
While the nine-year break has seen the duo barely switch up their instrumentation – Warren Fischer is still blasting drum machines and moody synth underneath Spooner’s vocals – the band’s friend and new producer, R.E.M.‘s Michael Stipe, seems to have generally smoothed the scruffier side of the duo’s compositions. The best example of this is ‘Togetherness’, a sleek, stuttering collaboration with Chairlift‘s Caroline Polachek that suggests Fischerspooner are capable of experimentation and subtlety far beyond the typical schtick on offer here.