When they first toured in summer 2013, [a]Spring King[/a] schlepped around in founding member Tarek Musa’s mum’s Honda, ate packed lunches and relied on T-shirt sales for petrol money. They were a ramshackle DIY band with ramshackle DIY songs; Musa, the Manchester band’s singer, drummer and producer, recorded their rough and ready early singles at home – guitars and vocals in an old sewing room, drums in the bathroom. One of their best is the clattering 2015 release ‘City’, which Zane Lowe beamed into 100 countries last June as the landmark first track played on Apple’s Beats 1 radio service. It was a huge break, leading to worldwide press hype, a deal with Island and an appearance on BBC2’s Later… With Jools Holland alongside Elton John, who personally requested a copy of this, their debut album.
That track is now the opening gambit on their first full-length release, which follows five singles and two EPs. This time, there’s a big difference: budget. Recording in Lincolnshire’s Chapel Studios as well as 27-year-old Musa’s house has led to a deeper, richer sound and a set of songs screaming to be played loud. ‘Demons’ – originally released in 2014 and the only other old track here – shows off the effect best, its meatier production given edge by Peter Darlington’s carving-knife guitar.
A similar uneasy mood infects ‘Who Are You’, with its accelerating riff and desperate, repeated vocal: “I just want to be somebody else, somebody new”. A sax solo that hangs around just long enough and reverb-coated yells of “WHO ARE YOU?” cement it as a highlight.
Indeed, Spring King are at their restless best when Musa – who sometimes vomits on and just-offstage from exhaustion – sounds uncomfortable: see the poppy-but-paranoid ‘It’s So Dark’, the swampy, doom-filled ‘Take Me Away’ (“The peace… is covered by the blood”) and the cartoonishly aggressive title track. By contrast, ‘Detroit’, ‘Heaven’ and ‘The Summer’ – a tribute to Musa’s beloved Beach Boys – are distinctly edge-free and muffle the record’s impact. Such moments make you wish Spring King would freak out more, but Musa’s songwriting is sharp enough to keep their packed lunch days firmly behind them.
- Record label: Island Records
- Release date: 10 Jun, 2016