Spy vs. Spy – Little Lights

Spy vs. Spy
Little Lights

Spy Vs. Spy have to be the shining torch of the emo scene in England. Honestly, although I’ve read reviews of others, I can’t think of another. But this band has it down pat, crunching more passion and feeling into their complex rock songs than most bands can get out of a post-arena rock party. Their first EP drew more comparisons to Braid, with shouted double vocals and complex song structures. Although some of those similarities are still here, their newest album slows down much more often and gets much more melodic. I think it’s a step up, although some of the intensity of their first EP may be lacking here.

The vocals are often just on the verge of a gut-wrenching scream or passionate shriek, but they are also sung, even if it’s not always pretty. The guitars here are more melodic and plucked as opposed to frantically pounded out of the guitars, and the drums still keep complex and intricate structures. But it’s all about the power this band is able to rip out of these lengthy songs, making you feel what they’re screaming. Yes, kids, emo is still alive and kicking. The production is sadly lacking in places, but that’s easily overlooked.

You can tell from the first notes of the first track, “Waiting for Centralia to Sink” that this is going to be good. The drums start off loud and pounding, and the guitar starts off driving but still melodic. The vocals are heart-wrenching and sincere. Like many of the songs on this album, it slows down and gets more melodic before building and getting more driving and intense again. “Best Man Nomination” is most true to their last EP, with fast-suddenly-slow changes, double vocals more toward the screamed side, and complex, powerful drumwork. The title track is a very pretty, short acoustic instrumental with some soft synth backing. “Red Cars Go Faster” is probably one of the most powerful and emotional tracks as well as one of the most complex musically. Those guitars are so excellent, it makes me swoon. “Kittyhawk” is a bit slower but no less intense, with probably the most empathic vocals and some well-plucked guitars. Just listen to them sing, “Am I a dirty word? Am I a dirty warghhhhhhhhhd?” “The Captain is Sleeping” is a bit more straight-forward rock, perhaps even a bit math-rocky and complex drum-heavy. And the final track, “Twenty Year Old Boys with Ten Year Old Haircuts,” starts off so pretty and melodic. There’s even some neat horns in here that have a great effect. This song is slower and prettier, although it does pick up in parts. It’s also the best produced.

Supposedly, Spy Vs. Spy were gearing up to release their next full-length on Deep Elm, the US’ answer to everything emo. But they broke up, and that’s unfortunate as they seemed to be poised to take over the emo crown. You can’t help but listen to these screams and singing and driving rock without getting involved personally. Let’s hope their offspring keep it up.