Nostalgia is a helluva drug. To be able to be transported back to a time or place in your life where everything felt good or was simply just easier is pretty powerful. Whether this is coming from a place, a film or a song, it doesn’t really matter, what matters is the way it makes you feel. For a lot of music being made to hit that sweet spot, be it intentional or otherwise, goes a long way to catapulting a band to success. The tricky thing is to be able to look back while still being able to keep your art moving forward. For a band like Spectres, who have made their name channelling the spirit of 80s post punk, there could be a criticism that what they’ve done is just to rehash the past. With their new album, aptly titled Nostalgia, they show that they are not just a pastiche of a bygone era but have the skill to take the ingredients that make that music so memorable and are able to instil it with their own forward looking ethos. The album should help the Vancouver based five piece to be placed among the top acts of the dark wave scene while also appealing to an audience that isn’t all leather jackets and motorcycle boots.
The album kicks off with “The Head and The Heart” with it’s wonderfully chorus drenched arpeggiated guitars and rumble tumble drumming. When vocalist Brian Gustavson takes over, it’s striking as there’s a clarity to his performance that hasn’t been heard previously in the band’s output. Clarity is a good word to describe this new phase of Spectres career, be it through the vocal performance or with any of the instrumentation featured on the album. This version of Spectres maintains the scrappiness people have come to expect from the band but it’s all coming through clearer, showcasing the band’s great playing and knack for writing a catchy song. On “Dreams” the band is in full New Romantic mode. The floor tom and muted guitar holding everything down while the bass bobs in and out of the proceedings allowing Gustavson’s vocals to float high above it all. “Pictures From Occupied Europe” shows that the band isn’t just going to be satisfied singing love songs. The track and one of the album highlights shows the band still has a foot, at the very least, placed in the punk world. The rhythm section glues the song in place wonderfully while the duelling guitars add this element of controlled chaos that is irresistible. “Years Of Lead” features one of the most ear worm-y vocal melodies that Gustavson has ever sung and, while being totally hooky, pulls on your heartstrings as well. The album wraps up with “Along The Waterfront” capturing the band at their very best. On the surface it’s The Smiths meets early The Cure, and while that statement is huge enough, they still make it their own and to be able to stand out among those influences says a lot about how good Spectres are.
Produced by Jason Corbett (ACTORS, Frankiie, Art d’Ecco) at Jacknife Sound, the album sounds amazing. Each instrument stands out but is perfectly placed in the mix, all working together to create a harmonious and huge affair. While Spectres modus operandi may be to look to the past to craft their brand of post post punk, the band takes those influences and has crafted something wholly their own. Nostalgia may be a halluva drug but it’s also a helluva record.
review by Adam Fink