Album Review: Now or Whenever // Spector

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After a brief but soporific intro that sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack to Interstellar, Spector’s long-awaited third full-length release Now or Whenever launches into ‘Catch You On The Way Back In’, the single that heralded the part-time outfit’s triumphant return in June last year

This is quintessential Spector for fans of their frenetic debut, Enjoy It While It Lasts, which turns ten in August this year, and is swiftly followed by the catchy ‘Do You Wanna Drive’. “It’s funny how time stutters / It’s funny how time flies”, sings Fred Macpherson on an album that’s for the most part concerned with just that. Where have the last two years gone? What do you say when there’s nothing to say? Well, in guitarist Jed Cullen’s words: “We start talking and writing about the past and the future as if to escape from this paradoxically mundane/extreme present.” 

The less musically gifted amongst us have had to content ourselves with online shopping, an endless stream of Hermes deliveries in our quest for dopamine. But demand outstripped supply: originally set for release in October 2021, the release date of Now or Whenever was delayed to account for a vinyl manufacturing traffic jam. Those who have waited patiently to get their hands on the LP’s raindrop-studded sleeves will no doubt be relieved as she starts to spin. 

“You’ve been looking for a mint condition, first edition / You’ve been looking for the real deal,” croons frontman Macpherson on second single, ‘Funny Way Of Showing It’, co-written with The Magic Gang’s Jack Kaye. This is an album for a generation obsessed with buying things and displaying them on bookshelves and coffee tables, in houses they can’t afford to own. 

Macpherson’s trademark witticisms abound, particularly on standout track ‘No One Knows Better’, an eviscerating takedown of a generation of ‘plant mums’: “Sadomasochistic but you love your plants.” With its insistent chorus of “I’m not like you, I’m not like you, I’m not like you / It’s unlike me / It’s not likely that I like you” it sounds like a cynical response to The Dandy Warhol’s ‘Bohemian Like You’ (let’s not overlook the two bands’ shared interest in great cars). 

The waltzy ‘I’m Not Crying You’re Crying’, was written in the early days after lockdown one, and is accompanied by an absurdist music video featuring a puppet double of Fred. “We wrote ‘I’m Not Crying You’re Crying’ with self-proclaimed ‘king of chords’ MT Hadley,” said the band’s bespectacled singer. “He suggested we all keep our masks on throughout the session, which meant we couldn’t see each other’s facial expressions as we came up with it. I think that’s how we found the precipice between tragedy and comedy. There’s no excuse for the fretless bass though.” There’s certainly something tragi-comic about picturing Macpherson, spectacles steaming, as he tries to put the sense of collective listlessness we’ve all felt into words.

Concerned mostly with the passage of time when you’re not sure anything’s changing, this is a fragmented collection that combines snippets of nostalgia — see “For twenty-five seconds / we were back then and you were 26 and I was 27” from ‘Bad Summer’ — with wistfulness; see ‘D-roy’ — “When did everything close / and now whose memories are those?”. It’s not negative, per se, more contemplative. There are glimmers of hope, too.    

There’s been a hell of a lot of time in the past two years for clearing out wardrobes and discovering old yearbooks or faded photographs of friends or lovers from days gone by, so perhaps it’s no wonder that the record is preoccupied with growing up and the changes that accompany that, including perhaps, “Pregnancy test in the recycling / the avocados ripening”, a quintessentially millennial scene set in ‘This Time Next Year’.

Musically more accomplished than anything the band has put out to date, Jed’s guitar takes centre stage throughout, with funky riffs in album outro ‘An American Warehouse In London’. A sense of experimentation natural to having had so much time to mess around with new ideas emerges with flutes, drones, and alternative tunings across the board. Ten years on from the youthful exuberance of Enjoy It While It Lasts, the band are older and perhaps burdened by the weight of adulthood, but Now or Whenever proves that hasn’t change their ability to write a damn good tune.

Words by Beth Kirkbride


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