Spectrals - Sob Story Album Review
Louis Jones might only be in his early twenties but his Spectrals alter ego has seen him become a veteran of the lo-fi garage pop scene. With over a dozen releases to his name since 2009's 'Leave Me Be' seven-inch which introduced Spectrals to the world, he's changed direction more times than a headless chicken (not that we're accusing Spectrals music of being disorientated; far from it). From the surf punk Mary Chain-isms of his initial works, to the refined and occasionally sensual melancholia of 2011's debut long player 'Bad Penny', Jones isn't one for standing still long enough to be pigeonholed and shoehorned into any specific genre - which is just as well because the potential to become one of the UK's most prolific songwriters is there for all to see.
While follow-up 'Sob Story' doesn't attempt to re-invent the wheel - after all, what's the point in changing something that works just fine in the first place? - there's a marked progression from its predecessor throughout the record's twelve pieces. Those Alex Turner comparisons that have followed him since 2010's self-titled EP - sometimes applied lazily - have a more credible vein to them here. Not least in the way Jones vocal style bears numerous similarities, from the sentimental croon that envelopes the majority of 'Sob Story' to the occasional embedded vowel pronunciation.
More than anything though, this is a record that illustrates what a precocious talent Jones is; unique in many ways for someone so young, particularly when considering 'Sob Story' is exactly what it says on the tin, an album doused in despair and heartbreak. At times sounding as if he's about to fall apart under the weight of his own misery, there's also a youthful effervescence raging under the surface. So when he's singing, "Why do I let it get on top of me?" on the countrified title track or 'She couldn't be you if she tried" on football chant for the underachievers 'Milky Way', it creates a tide of optimism to gloss over the unhappiness.
In places, a throwback to late fifties rock 'n' roll (see opener 'Let Me Cave In' or sprightly groover 'A Heartbeat Behind'), other times drawing on influences as disparate as 1970s trad rock ('Keep Your Magic Out Of My House') and Northern Soul ('Something To Cry About'), producer Chet "JR" White - formerly of Girls - earns his corn in keeping Jones and 'Sob Story' coherent.
Of course there's always going to be some that yearn for the past, and in Louis Jones and Spectrals case, that back catalogue becomes more extensive with every passing year. However, to his credit, he's never lost sight of what makes an artist perpetually relevant; longevity. And, in doing so, rather than rest on his laurels and play safe, has crafted a record worthy of mention alongside the great songwriters of his generation.
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