Release DetailsLABEL Victory
RELEASED ON 10/3/2006
Better Than Knowing Where You Are
posted on 1/2007 By:
Like many of you, I was a bit taken aback when one of the premier hardcore labels of the nineties, Victory Records, started signing emo/pop bands a few years back. I guess you have to pay the bills, but long time fans surely haven’t been excited to see make-up band after make-up band being pushed by the same label that has put out bands like Integrity, Warzone and Snapcase. Still, amongst the seemingly endless supply of eyeliner and lipstick bands, there have been a few gems. Spitalfield, along with the equally lame named Silverstein, being chief among them.
For those of you unfamiliar with this band, nineties emo bands like Texas Is The Reason, Braid and Mineral are subtle influences, especially in the song structures and more complexly layered guitar work, but contemporaries Jimmy Eat World are probably the best comparison to what Spitalfield sound like, both in their ability to write moody introspective fare and follow it with huge, guitar driven hits sure to give rock radio programmers another song to wear out from overplaying. But Spitalfield differs a bit from Jimmy Eat World in the guitar and vocal department with an absolutely huge power pop guitar sound and arguably more powerful/distinct vocals that somehow manage to convey equal amounts of power and vulnerability in the same breath (so much like underrated nineties power popsters Best Kissers In The World’s vocalist it’s scary).
So how does Better Than Knowing Where You Are stack up to previous efforts? First off there’s nothing here that quite approaches the pure pop drive of cuts like "Gold Dust Vs. The State Of Illinois" or the shimmering guitar hooks on “What Were You Thinking” off personal favorite Stop Doing Bad Things. Many of these songs are certainly close though, as they’ve managed to capture the same spirit of their last record if in a bit more subdued format this time around. Where I noticed the biggest difference was the overall energy level. Their previous effort was a seriously guitar driven affair: loud, powerful and edgy, not quite as menacing as punk rock but definitely more acerbic than your typical power pop fare. Here the guitars are still big and bright but just a bit more shiny and polished and that’s when they are using them at full force, which, with the exception of barn burners "On The Floor" and "Curtain Call", never seems to be quite as forcefully as in the past. Often the softer passages that added nice tension builders on previous albums take a bit too much of the center stage here, failing to segue into the dynamic power pop that really is this band's bread and butter sound. It’s true this softer side of their songwriting has been present from day one and they do it extremely well, from the tasteful use of dark, clean guitar chords to surreal guitar effects swirling in the background, but it’s never been as big a part of an album as it is here. And then there are the ballads…
Like latter day Jimmy Eat World, Spitalfield occasionally fancies themselves as dark balladeers, writing of forlorn love through drug metaphors and the like on songs like "Hold On" and "Novocaine" with the latter being a true start to finish snoozer. Not only do these songs come off as an emo version of a hair metal power ballad but also pale imitations of the much more emotive and creative Jimmy Eat World (at least in that department). Needless to say, when they stray from the spunky emo tinged power pop, they drift a little too far into radio friendly girl pop that makes even the hardiest among us cringe a bit. Thankfully these moments are in the minority, as minor distractions from what is otherwise another really good record from this band.
While this record, lacking some of the clear cut power of their last effort, is a bit of a step back for fans seeking aggressive power pop, it’s still a great record with the encouraging upside of their best vocal performance to date. Listening again to their first record, it’s pretty amazing to see how well he’s developed his sound, so bigger and better things most certainly be in store for the future. Still, as good as Spitalfield is at what they do, some of you may dismiss this record out of hand as nothing more than radio friendly drivel. That’s surely temporary as their clear command of writing catchy songs that don’t rely on easy to remember sing along choruses, huge power pop guitars, solid songwriting skills and distinct vocals are simply too good to be ignored forever.
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