Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Album Review: Roundabouts by Spoilers (by Emma Prew)

I must confess that I was a little late to join the Spoilers fan club, having only really started listening to the Kent foursome earlier this year. We saw them play with Teenage Bottlerocket (plus Eat Defeat and Swan Prince) at the first night of Polite Riot Festival, at the New Cross Inn, in June and I was thoroughly impressed and hooked by their performance. Fast forward a few months and Spoilers have now released their much anticipated debut album, Roundabouts, on Brassneck Records (UK), Boss Tuneage Records (UK), SBÄM Records (EU) and Little Rocket Records (US). After having the album on repeat for several weeks, I figured I ought to review it.

Opening up the album in an upbeat manner with some pounding drums, fast guitar riffage and the line ‘Just be careful what you wish for…’ is Shortcuts. Lead singer Dan Goatham’s vocals range between a fairly gruff style for the verses and something a bit more poppy for a slightly slower paced but super catchy chorus. Shortcuts kicks the album off with a burst of energy and has me eager to hear what’s next. Track two is the album’s title track which gets started with a melodic guitar intro and then I don’t know if there are actually keyboards on this album but it feels like that’s what I can hear here… it might just be the guitars. Whatever it is, I love it. Roundabouts has my head nodding in no time as I’m carried along with the motion of the track – round and round, you could say. This is another fine pop punk tune that will get lodged in your head instantly – ‘Going round in this vicious circle, Miles away.’  – about feeling stuck in one place or rather going around in circles but not really getting anywhere. The third song, Collision Course, wastes no time getting started with a speedy drum roll to kicks things off. Spoilers really have a knack for writing immensely catchy, feel-good tunes, even if they aren’t always entirely feel-good subjects. Collision Course is a great example of this, a song about conflicting opinions wrapped up in an upbeat pop punk package – ‘We’ll meet in the middle as we collide, Same ideas a different side.’ 

Up next is See You Ringside, one of the shorter songs on the album and also one of the heavier sounding tracks. With its crunchy guitars and pounding drums, See You Ringside is an angrier track but Spoilers succeed in retaining their melodic sound despite this. There’s an additional shouty part towards the end of the song from, presumably, other members of the band. I imagine this would be great live with fists punching the air. The Same Again is a track that I’m familiar with from the Spoilers live show – and an excellent part of their set it is too. I feel like this song is somewhat nostalgic but is perhaps more about wanting to forget the past or at least not be reminded of it. The Same Again features a huge singalong chorus – ‘I’ll have the same again!’  – that is just such good fun, whether heard live or on recording. The bridge is also particularly excellent when Dan sings one part while the rest of the band chant something else – great harmonising. The finest of punk rock pub anthems if ever there was one. When I first listened to Roundabouts, I had to check that I was still listening to the same band when Pushover came on. It’s fast, punchy and aggressive for about the first ten seconds or so – possibly another member of the band singing(?) – before Dan’s more typical vocals come in. The element of aggression remains for this track about not wanting to be pushed around anymore. As the shortest track on the album, Pushover is over before you know it but I enjoyed the shift in sound as we reach the halfway point of Roundabouts.

If the previous song was a full-on headbanger then the next, Target Practice, is perhaps more of a head nodder in comparison. That’s not to say that the track is slow by any means however. This is more classic Spoilers in fact, with fast riffs and pop punk vocal delivery. Target Practice definitely has one of the most earwormy choruses of the album – ‘Just keep missing it, Take another blind stab in the dark.’ It was stuck in my head for days anyway. Eighth song Skimming Stones features some huge guitars that quickly grabbed my attention. There’s more of that feel-good nature here for one of the most poppy sounding songs on the album. I’m not sure if it is meant to be but this song has a real nostalgic feel to me. Maybe because I think of skimming stones as being something you do when you’re younger – at the good ol’ British seaside with your family. ‘Take me to the bottom of the sea, A tiny town, Now there’s one last pebble on the beach… I watch you skimming stones again…’ Interestingly, to me anyway, the next song, Harry G, opens with its chorus.‘When I think of the stories, Think of the glorious things that I could never tell, If there’s too many one-liners, Too much inside us, Harry G’s still around.’  If it works then why not? Harry G is a fast paced and urgent track about having a good time, as well as lots of laughter, and most importantly not forgetting about those good times. I think Spoilers are quite the good times band.

As we draw towards the end of the album, Spoilers have another slightly harder hitting, short and fast track in store for us. Lost Your Way feels a little different to the other songs on Roundabouts with a great opportunity for crowd participation in its chorus with some yelling of ‘Hey!’ in typical punk rock fashion – ‘You’ve lost your way, Hey, hey, hey! And it’s me who’s gonna pay, Hey! You’ve lost your way, Hey, hey! The time has passed, You’ve had your say.’ A furious ending brings us to the penultimate track, Recently Re-Released. Another superbly melodic intro leads into the lines ‘It all sounds the same, Re-released again.’ I think this song is possibly a dig at artists who recycle the same material in a slightly different package, but then it could possibly also be a dig at Spoilers themselves since they released an album called ‘Recently Re-Released’ earlier in the year! It could also, more likely, not be about musicians at all and be about wider issues. However you interpret it, it’s another wonderful slice of pop punk. Excuses Excuses is the album’s closing track. It has a slower start… but wait, no, not for long. Spoilers basically do two speeds in their songs – fast and faster. There’s a sense of bitterness in the vocals for this song about being fed up with someone who always makes excuses, often at the last minute. The last section of the song feels like a great end to the song and the album as a whole – ‘I won’t give in…’  Eventually, Spoilers do slow down a little to end the album. Cue fade out.

I can happily say that Spoilers are fast becoming one of my favourite bands in the UK right now and Roundabouts is without a doubt one of my favourite albums of 2018. Go check it out now, now, now!

You can buy physical copies of the album from the Spoilers webstore, as well as stream and download it on Bandcamp. Also be sure to like the band on Facebook.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

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