The Spiraltones You’re So Analogue (Self Released)
CD / DL
Seven song EP of Ukelele-indie-pop annoys Ged Babey with its chirpiness and positivity.
It’s hard to review a band in a less-than-positive way when you actually know one of them. When I say I know Craig, the mandolin-player with the Spiraltones, it’s from bumping into him literally 100’s of times at gigs over the past 27 years. For the first few years I knew him as the one that looks like Ross from Friends (David Schwimmer?) Sometimes he was an audience-member but half the time playing in bands. In the late 80’s he was in old skool punx Strange The Butcher and in the nineties & noughties, the excellent Beautiful Life, a Brit-Pop Folk-Punk band who remained big fish in the small pond that is the Southampton scene.
More recently Craig has fallen in with a bad lot; a smiling, shiny happy-clappy bunch of fun-lovers called the Southampton Ukelele Jam, a self-styled “collective of people who wanted to appear much larger by playing tiny instruments”.(which is a front for wife-swapping, group-sex and the like I’m sure…)… and consequently he joined/formed the Spiraltones with a David Tennant lookalike & soundalike called Colin McAllister. (the bassist and drummer fail to resemble anyone famous disappointingly and they are Adam Barnes and Rob Critchard) Singer Jo Davies looks a tiny bit like Davina MacColl, if she was a boho student-type.
The Spiraltones mix ukelele and mandolin with proper instruments like guitar, bass and drums to make a jazz, skiffle, twee indie-pop amalgam which has only one defining feature; its damn perkiness, cheerfulness and chirpiness.
Y’know Fairground Attraction? Eddie Reader? “It’s got to be-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-eeee per-fect!” Well that’s what Spiraltones are like. That and the bloody Beautiful South, in their more chirpy moments. The Spiraltones have the lust for life of a coachload of born-again Christians having a singalong whilst stuck in a traffic-jam. They’re the Ned Flanders’s of Pop Neighourino! I hate them.
Then I thought I’d better listen to the CD and not just go with my preconceptions.
I’d take the certainty sounds like the Housemartin’s Happy Hour and includes a line about “a page out of the Womans Weekly”, which immediately makes me think of the godawful Victoria Wood and her “Beat Me on the Bottom with the Womans Weekly”. It’s a chirpy song.
Don’t Cry He Loves You is much better, thanks to some gentle picking and rock-guitar noodling. It reminds me of when the Marine Girls wrote Buzzcocks influenced love songs.
Jolene is not the Dolly Parton song, but a nice, perky, mandolin-driven original. Its an 8.5 on the chirp-o-meter.
You’re So Analogue has a vague ska-feel to it…and finally I realise why I’m starting to like the Spiraltones… its because they remind me of obscure, old Peel-favourite the Chefs (from Brighton. They had a singer by the name of Helen McCookery-Book who also did some country-flavoured solo stuff, which I also, predictably found a bit too twee.).
Lipstick and Tea is chirp-tastic and twee-mungus despite some negative lyrics about feeling “short-changed at the end of the century” and dissing New Labour.
Against my better judgement and flying in the face of my penchant for angry or miserable music, I actually like the Spiraltones a lot, a band designed to be heard out of doors on a sunny day at fetes or festivals alike.
All words by Ged Babey. More Writing by Ged on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.