Spector: Now or Whenever - Album Review
And no, nothing ever started with a kiss...
It's hard to believe that Spector have been around for over ten years now. I feel I've grown up with them, in a way - their iconic debut Enjoy it While it Lasts came out just after I turned 16, and now ten years on, they're back with their third album, Now or Whenever. They're a band that's been present for so many unforgettable moments of my life - I still remember listening to the first radio play of All The Sad Young Men, then days later queuing up to cram into Manchester's tiny Soup Kitchen for its release show. I spent my 20th birthday travelling to see them play their debut and 2015's underrated Moth Boys in full, and I still cherish them as some of the best shows of my life. While I don't listen to them as much as I used to, they're still an incredibly important band to me.
With that in mind, it's interesting to be receiving their third album (or fourth, depending on if you count 2020's fantastic Non-Fiction compilation), many years removed from the height of my fandom. While nothing could ever top the masterpiece that is Moth Boys for me, Now Or Whenever comes damn close. It refines their old sounds even sharper, and pushes the band into unexpected new directions to resounding success.
Spector are nothing if not self-aware. After all, this is a band who, in the two lead singles for Moth Boys, had lyrics referencing the two lead singles for their debut album. This gets taken to another level in the phenomenal lead single Catch You On the Way Back In, which builds and recedes as dramatically and gracefully as a wave. The final chorus loops back perfectly into the opening verse, lending the lyrics even more emotional heft. Every part of the song could be a hook in its own right - it's one of their best singles in a career full of them, and would stand strong on Enjoy It While It Lasts. Better yet is Do You Wanna Drive, a song which, by my count, is in at least 3 different time signatures, yet feels like a perfect pop song, as catchy and melodic as any I've ever heard. It feels like a lost Elvis Costello classic, and yet also quintessentially Spector. Both songs prove that Spector are as vital as they've ever been.
It's not all throwbacks, though - anyone expecting a re-run of one of their older albums will be disappointed, as more time is spent carving out new ground, be that in the jazzy, lounge-esque balladry of I'm Not Crying You're Crying or the acoustic This Time Next Year. Other tracks push the classic Spector sound further, like the new wave Norweigan Air which incorporates Human League-esque synths into their driving rock sound. Elsewhere, songs like No One Knows Better and Bad Summer are everything the band does best, and are sure to be highlights of their incendiary live shows. Everything comes together in the phenomenal (and hilariously titled) closer, An American Warehouse in London. It's the longest song the band have ever released, and yet not a single second is wasted. It builds to so many natural climaxes, and in the final chorus, you can practically feel the confetti erupting from the ceiling. It's heartbreaking and gorgeous, anthemic and intensely personal. In other words, it's everything the band does best.
After ten years on the scene, it's remarkable that Spector are finding new ways to hone their sound, proving themselves to be more than just another band - they're one of the best rock bands the UK has ever produced, and Now Or Whenever is proof.
Highlight tracks: Do You Wanna Drive, Catch you on the Way Back In, An American Warehouse in London, D-Roy
Key lyric: Sometimes you can't even get out of bed / But if you're giving up, I'm coming too