Review of Bad Penny Album by Spectrals

Leeds based singer/songwriter Louis Jones may not have endeared himself to some of the city's musicians after comments made about its incestuous existence, but there's no denying he's something of a unique entity, as the eleven songs that make up 'Bad Penny' ably demonstrate. While not exactly a newcomer having released a handful of well-received singles along with last year's 'Extended Play' mini LP, this long-awaited debut marks a further progression in terms of Jones' songwriting that sets him a million miles away from the Mary Chain inspired musings of his earlier creations.

Spectrals Bad Penny Album

Indeed, such comparisons seem ridiculously wide of the mark now and have done for some time. Instead, Jones has taken a more soulful route along a path where faded glamour and broken dreams line the gutter. In a parallel universe he could easily take his place as the third Last Shadow Puppet. Neither lyrically or vocally not a million miles away from Alex Turner or Miles Kane, Jones takes the rock and roll lineage of artists like Bobby Vee and Dion and injects it with the velveteen touch of early Motown while Phil Spector nods approvingly in the background.

What 'Bad Penny' also confirms is that Louis Jones is arguably one of the most prolific writers of his generation. Certainly there isn't time to blink before he's onto his next batch of songs, none of the compositions here having previously been released before. Having chosen to work with esteemed producer Richard Formby, whose previous credits include the likes of The Telescopes, Archie Bronson Outfit and more recently, both highly acclaimed Wild Beasts records 'Two Dancers' and 'Smother' its little surprise that even the most minute detail here is covered implicitly to the point where even the drop of a pin could sound like an explosion in a paint factory.

Opener and current single 'Get A Grip' sets the scene impeccably, Jones declaring "I always seem to let my smile slip" at the outset before admitting "I'm always trying to get my head, out the wrong side of bed" at its close. 'You Don't Have To Tell Me' and 'Big Baby' also favour a more upbeat direction. The former's exquisitely crafted poppy chorus links in with the bouncy, Wedding Present style chiming guitars of the latter, revealing possibly Spectrals most radio friendly offerings to date.

When the mood does become more pensive and stripped back, as on the old fashioned lament that is 'Lockjaw' or mournful 'Many Happy Returns', Jones sounds light years ahead of his tender age of just twenty-one. 'You Can't Live On Love Alone' coupled with 'Confetti' rival Alex Turner in fusing provocative lyrical affirmations with grandiose arrangements more befitting of the experimental pop stylings of the mid-to-late 1960s. Its moments like this where Spectrals stand out from the rest of the beatnik lo-fi crowd, and undoubtedly highlights why such an established label as Wichita took a chance on them in the first place.

Sometimes 'Bad Penny' does enter a lull. The countrified strains of 'Doing Time' and too laid back to care 'Luck Is There To Be Pushed' both slip by unnoticed, and ultimately its left to the closing gambit 'If I Think About The Magic Will It Go Away?' to remind us of why Spectrals were considered such an interesting proposition when those initial demos leaked two years ago while offering an insight as to where Louis Jones thought process might be heading next.


Dom Gourlay

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