Kevin Drew is a likeable bloke. He asks audience members at gigs to sing for themselves rather than the band, he administers hugs during shows and he is also partly responsible for two of my favourite albums of the last six or so years with You Forgot It in People and Broken Social Scene, both of course, with Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene.
Actually, come to think of it, those first two factoids about Drew might offer enough impetus for some to run away screaming. His “solo” album is marketed with the “Broken Social Scene presents..” tagline so the brand is behind him, backing him up. It is worth noting that nearly all the members of Broken Social Scene make an appearance on the record, so it’s hard to know what the difference between this and the aforemented albums are. The main difference with Spirit If.. is in the process and ethos: it was recorded casually with less expectation or stringency to schedule, an all-star cast where no-one had to make a commitment except for Drew himself.
When I heard the promo song “Tbtf” (abbreviated from the slightly more offensive Too beautiful to fuck), I thought it was fairly average song (and I still think it is). After listening to the album repeatedly, I don’t think the song is a good advertisement for the album. There are better songs on “Spirit If” which give it much more life.
Opener “Farewell to the Pressure Kids” begins the album with bewildered stretched vocals matched to incendiary guitar noise like a less boisterous Ibi Dreams of Pavement. “Fucked Up Kid” is flourished with BSS’ distinct horn section and “Lucky Ones” has a beautiful ending sing-along chorus. There are couple of mid-tempo songs which don’t particularly grab but highlights are the slowly swelling 6 minute “Gang Bang Suicide”, the lo-fi pulse of “Frightening Lives” and the fuzzy wonderland of “Backed out on the..” with J Mascis as guest.
Ultimately though, what separates this from a great BSS album is the tendency for songs to wander for 5 or 6 minutes when 4 or 4 and a half would do, leading to a lack of focus in comparison. But judged as a Kevin Drew album (if we ignore the clear BSS involvement), it’s a tenacious collection of 14 songs which you should let wash over you recurrently.
Kevin Drew is playing Tripod on the 14th October (with members of Broken Social Scene as his backing band). It’ll probably be amazing and render my words irrelevant.