The Spinto Band - Moonwink

Tim Miller 29/09/2008

Rating: 3.5/5

When I reviewed this Delaware sextet's album Nice and Nicely Done back in 2005, I believed at the time that it was their debut - and a sparkling one at that. However, while researching into this new release I came across another review centre, which shall remain unplugged, proclaiming Moonwink to be the band's ninth studio album. Astonished, I searched for something to back this up; some album titles, a discography, something like that, which you'd think, nine albums in, would be hard to miss. I'm yet to find anything* and shall assume that the reviewer in question got their wires crossed.

The Spinto Band's second LP, then, has got, particularly in my eyes, some living up to do. Nice and Nicely Done was a ten-song gem of a debut, each with some quirky ornament, such as the kazoos in 'Brown Boxes', or gorgeous melodies, a la 'Mountains'. More often than not though, both were in abundance, and it all means that Moonwink had got a musically impressive predecessor to vie with.

Comparative elements bubble up immediately: the Spintos' trademark scrunchy guitars equally adept at smouldering progressions as NY garage rock solos are warmly applied, as is their love for added sixths and minor sub-dominant chords. (You might guess that the Spinto Band are a joy for listeners who love getting their teeth into the science, the hows and whys of music occasionally). It all ejaculates in the galloping opener 'Later On', Nick Krill's fanciful vocal style in full flow, remaining so for the entire album, while elegant harmonies, music hall “woah”ing and plinky pianos paint a pretty picture as the curtain lifts on Moonwink.

And, the mood continues as the album progresses. Where their debut seemed a collection of dazzling but disparate tunes, what's evident about Moonwink is that the Spinto Band have focused their efforts on getting this recording to flow between tracks so that it sits more comfortable as an entity. If Nice and Nicely Done was a showcase in the art of songwriting, Moonwink is the transition from practice to practical. The benign, playful essence of opener 'Later On' infuses the whole album, with stand out tracks 'The Carnival', 'Needlepoint' and 'Pumpkins & Paisley' exercises in upbeat indie-pop, all bobbing rhythms, summery melodies and dozy harmonies schooled in music tradition. The brilliant closing track 'The Black Flag' is like an updated version of The Motors' 'Airport', a classy throwback to '70s pop bands. Again reminding me in spades of 10CC, at times it seems almost too easy for the Spintos, such is their command of nuances of music and its formal pleasantries, but ultimately - and disappointingly - overkill sets in.

That is to say, despite many of the songs having unique and highly infectious hooks, the overall sound that emanates from Moonwink starts to stagnate towards the latter end of the album. Taken on their own, each of the 11 songs is still cutesy, captivating and entirely enjoyable, but, where the debut mixed things up track by track, this follow up loses the merits of individual songs amongst the blanketing resonance of the LP's hazy sheen.

It's a shame, because The Spinto Band remain a triumphantly exciting band in modern music, a superior sum of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's quirkiness and the Mystery Jets' nose for arrangements. But Moonwink, for all its cleverness and knowing musicality, doesn't quite warm the heart in the way it should. There's no doubt that class is permanent, but there's such a thing as being too good.

Released 22 September 2008

*( I have e-mailed the site and asked them to produce some evidence of these previous seven albums.)