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Spookyland is the band you bond over with a stranger who’s about to change your life while you’re queuing for the bar in the small hours… and if they’re not, then where have you been, and who else would you’ve been talking about? Since the magnetically pessimistic quartet first put out their debut single, The Silly Fucking Thing, back in May 2014, we’ve revelled in feeling like our teeth have been punched in and our heart’s been categorically ripped to shreds, as long as it’s Spookyland who’ve been behind the misery.
Wrecked and shattered, Spookyland are exhaustingly gorgeous on their much anticipated debut record, Beauty Already Beautiful.
Recorded with long-time collaborator Tony Buchen at Conor Oberst’s ARC Studios in Omaha, Nebraska over a period of three weeks, 11-track Beauty Already Beautiful is Spookyland’s much-anticipated album that follows a whirlwind few years including festival slots at Lollapalooza and SXSW; tours with Cold War Kids, Gang of Youths and The Lemonheads (to name a few); and the band’s hype-infused debut EP, Rock and Roll Weakling. In short, we’re stoked it’s finally here.
Beauty Already Beautiful is a haunted and thumpingly impactful album – lo-fi Americana sounds, grand and droning guitar rock which has been textured and steeped in reverb, like slow-tempered bourbon distilled on the back on a moving truck. Harmonies are powerful, prolific and neatly woven together; riffs take ambitious, explorational journeys; and instruments intertwine as blistering guitars and buzzy chords bleed into each other.
Abuse, the album’s gentle, raw opener about loss, is a strings-and-vocals-only track Buchen spent years campaigning for. From there, we’re spun into Nowhereland, with country rock grooves and experimental riffs, rattling vocals and insisting drums. Prophet is tender and eerie, lending the music prowess of Mike Mogis; and Champions rolls back and forth, like a perfectly coordinated drunk, spitting forth a killer guitar solo, thundering into a series of conclusions that are wondrous and difficult and brazen all at once.
Big Head, Bulimic and God’s Eyes make up the album’s glut of pre-released singles: Big Head is the unabashedly anthemic track of this trio, crashing into glorious thumps of sound with lyrics that celebrate promiscuity. God’s Eyes is the track most likely to stop you dead in your tracks, even if you’re in the middle of a crowded mosh pit. It’s emotive and bitter, critiquing the role of religion for the world’s woes. And Bulimic is the album’s six-minute-long unforgiving, lyrically uncomfortable closer, addressing social friction, and the urge to dispense the disorder from your mind into the toilet bowl.
Lyrics are Spookyland’s protagonist and on Beauty Already Beautiful, these come loaded with confrontational metaphors that are resolutely self-aware, creating a doomed playground of volatile storytelling that critiques the world and condemns everyone in it. Then there’s Marcus Gordon’s voice – so distinctive you’d know it in half-sleep – rich and brashly nasal, with the weight of the world behind it and a heart that is ceaselessly, endlessly broken. It’s the assured, careful yowling drawl of a man wrecked, rock ‘n’ roll and all the old greats he’s duly drawn comparisons with – Dylan, Springsteen and Cave.
And if listening to Beauty Already Beautiful hasn’t already made the world bend in on itself, then I’ll leave you with Spookyland’s Facebook bio: solipsist rock and roll. Too right.
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