Thursday, April 5, 2018

Album Review: Spiders - Killer Machine

Over the last few years, I've spent a lot of words talking about the crop of bands mining the 70s for inspiration, and how there's a major difference between capturing the sound of classic rock and the essence of it. There's nothing difficult about digging up an old Vox or Marshall amp and recording the sound that comes out of it. But to capture the spirit of rock and roll that had no boundaries, well, that's a different task entirely. Most fail miserably on that front, even as they make records that sound exactly like a lost vinyl from 1977. The one band that does it right is Graveyard, and with Spiders heading into the studio with a producer who helped helm that band, there's reason to think we have something here.

While Spiders are indeed digging into the past for inspiration, they borrow more from the early punk bands than they do classic rock. That gives them a fresher take on the past, if such a thing is logically possible. Sonically, there isn't anything here to distinguish Spiders from an early Ramones or New York Dolls record. It has that rough around the edges, gritty sound that defined punk as being abrasive but never non-musical. The fuzz levels are just right, and there isn't anything to complain about as far as the production goes. It nails the vintage vibe.

"Dead Or Alive" was the first single, and is everything you could want from this kind of music. It has that dirty vintage vibe, some short but sweep guitar harmonies, and a hook that Ann-Sofie Hoyles pounds like a sledgehammer. So many decades after rock and roll was born and bred, the bones still hold strong. When you have the right pieces, you don't need to mess with the formula and add in superfluous playing to make a good song. That's what this one proves.

Formula can be a dirty word, but it doesn't need to be. Spiders follow one through most of this record, but that is no reason for criticism. They understand that a good song needs only a solid riff and a catchy hook, and they don't throw more into the mix than they need. Most of these songs are built from the same style of chord-based riffs, giving a solid backing for Ann-Sofie's vocals, which deliver that punch to the face. Taking a foray in some other direction, just for the sake of doing something different, wouldn't fit the record at all, and it would most likely color outside the band's strengths. They know who they are and what they do, and they're fine with that.

Sure, not every song is going to be as successful as "Dead Or Alive" or "Burning For You", but even the lesser tracks remain energetic and engaging. The record isn't long enough for them to drag down the momentum in any substantial way.

So is "Killer Machine" what its title implies? Honestly, not quite. It's a thoroughly enjoyable record that I had a great time listening to, but there's just enough fat around the edges to keep it from hitting that "all killer, no filler" mantra. Spiders have made a very good record, and that's nothing to criticize. As it pertains to the vintage rock world, "Killer Machine" is a darn fine entry.

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