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14 February 2016

Gleaming Spires - 'Songs of the Spires' (Posh Boy)

This is why I love the alphabetical approach - because we can go from Philip Glass to this, back-to-back. I bought this at a charity shop years ago solely because of the cover - it screamed out that this was a self-released experiment, possibly even a school project. But Posh Boy isn't a vanity label - they also released stuff by Red Cross and TSOL, and the Spires were actually the backing band of an early 80s Sparks lineup. You can hear that clearly on the record itself - these are clever pop songs in the mode of early 80s Sparks, with lots of synths and sequenced beats, and a very white male (and, I hope, ironic) viewpoint. Plus, both Maels wrote the liner notes on the back, silly screeds that don't indicate they actually listened to the record - the ol' backhanded compliment. The Gleaming Spires are remembered for their one hit song, 'Are You Ready For the Sex Girls?', track two here, which I must admit is a stomper. It's just on that border of novelty music, a wave I often enjoy surfing on. I'm sure it's being played right now in a strip club somewhere, as it will at strip clubs everywhere until the end of time - hopefully these guys had their publishing rights sorted out properly and they are still living comfortable on royalties. Whatever you may think of this song, 'they are women without any faults' is a line so brilliant it could have been penned by Ron and/or Russell themselves; the Spires clearly apprenticed well. The other cuts are hit and miss strong, and none too far from the Sparks formula. 'When Love Goes Under Glass' has a double tracked guitar line to lift the war imagery of the lyrics to a feel-good place; 'How To Get Girls Through Hypnotism' is amazingly predatory and it's hard to even sense the level of irony at play. Lines about 'make them do what you want' are stomach-churning, but then the verses suggest this is written from the perspective of a guy with serious fears and issues; regardless of its political correctness, it's just not a very good song, with the bridge, verse and chorus sounding like they came from three different places. The last two cuts are by far the best - the bouncing, peppery 'Talking in the Dark' and the maudlin, gorgeous 'Big Hotels'. A lush, romantic vision sung over synth string pads with a Euro-gazing perspective, it's my favourite song on the album and pretty much the reason I keep it.This electro-pop sound is back in style now and I can't help but wonder if a track like 'Blood Beat (Watch Your)' would be popular today. The darker tunes could almost be written by Tuxedomoon, if you squint, and that cover art is fucking amazing.

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