Wednesday, March 22, 2017

No Comparison: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Spiral Stairs (Scott Kannberg Of Pavement)

Spiral Stairs, better known as Scott Kannberg, is a member of Pavement. It must be hard to shake the shadow of that band. And, frankly, Scott hasn't tried too hard to do just that. He's recorded under the Spiral Stairs name, then as Preston School of Industry, and now as Spiral Stairs again, with each excursion sort of touching on parts of the Pavement sonic legacy. The results this time out have taken the form of the new album, Doris And The Daggers, and the record, out Friday, is just enough like a Pavement release to please long-time fans like me, as well as people who only know a tiny bit about that band's back-catalogue.

If "Emoshuns" sounds like anything, it sounds like tracks from that first Stephen Malkmus solo album, while the remarkably catchy "Dundee Man" chimes like something off of Brighten The Corners. Those 2 cuts were the first ones to grab me off of Doris And The Daggers and as I went further, more and more of this LP seemed extraordinarily good. With contributions from members of Broken Social Scene, this album feels semi-modern, and more than just a nostalgic trip through the best bits of Scott's previous band. The funky "No Comparison" sounds a bit like old Orange Juice or Josef K stuff, while the lyrical "The Unconditional" is, oddly, like some wonderfully unexpected mix of Richard Hell and Elliott Smith. It's a warm number and one at odds a tiny bit with some of the arch bits from the old days with the boys in Pavement. Still, there was a lot of genuine emotion in some of those classic tunes even if the band seemed a bunch of bright eggheads at times. Here, Kannberg uses the sort of melody Malkmus would have loved on the heartfelt "Angel Eyes", while the title cut is very nearly Britpop of the sort that Pulp did so well in the first half of the Nineties. Really, there is no denying the influence of some big names from U.K. rock here, especially when one spins the New Wave-tinged "Dance (Cry Wolf)" which remains as much sleek, mid-Eighties Bowie-influenced Duran Duran, as it is Iggy doing his best Bowie impression from the same era, while "AWN" even bears a slight trace of C86-style guitar-pop. If anything, Kannberg has turned to another set of influences than those that first inspired him in the Pavement days.

Really, the biggest surprise about this Spiral Stairs record is how much of it doesn't sound like Pavement at all. That said, a whole lot of it does, and that's probably a good thing. There's really no need for Spiral Stairs to try to distance himself from his legacy since he's far better served by embracing it. Doris And The Daggers has just enough traces of the old Pavement wit and charm to make this a must-own for even casual, "Cut Your Hair"-level fans. Similarly, this is a fine representation of current indie styles.

Doris And The Daggers will be out on Friday. Details on this album and Spiral Stairs from his official Facebook page, or his official website.

[Photo: Spencer Selvidge]