In life there are some universal truths. At the end of a party there is always a girl crying, you’ll never see your dad dance unless he’s drunk at a wedding and in indie circles, everyone knows Fred MacPherson. Since his teenage days in Les Incompetents, fronting Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man and, since 2010, as lead singer of Spector, MacPherson has been near ubiquitous for the best part of a decade. With Spector, he finally achieved his dream to release an album (in August this year) and he and his band are halfway through a mammoth twenty-three date tour, culminating in their biggest show to date at Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
First up are LULS, a band so new no-one knew what they looked like until their first band photo was released a few weeks ago. Of course, one of them knows Fred – guitarist Shaun Paterson was the guitarist in Les Incompetents, although LULS’ reverb-drenched onslaught is a world away from the Libertines-inspired output of his previous work. For a band with only one single release and a handful of gigs under their belt, LULS have an on-stage maturity that will draw many a crowd and there already seems to be a strong set of songs in place. Comparisons have been made to TV On The Radio and it’s easy to see why – ‘Young’, complete with group vocals and soaring chorus, could easily sit on Return To Cookie Mountain. ‘Swing Low’, on the other hand, pummels the unsuspecting front-row of Spector obsessives with a three-minute blast of Big Pink-esque noise-pop.
Hotly-tipped Birmingham youngsters Swim Deep are on next, and the Rescue Rooms crowd has swelled to around three-quarters full. After a surprisingly tepid start, the foursome pull out first single ‘King City’, a song that sounds every bit an indie club anthem for years to come, and the band step up about five gears at once. From here on in, every song sounds like a potential future single, Swim Deep seamlessly blending their own take on West-Coast American rock and British guitar-pop to create, in the words of one audience member, “Stoner-pop”. Perhaps most interestingly, the penultimate song is a real curveball, a more driven number reminiscent of New Order, complete with extended outro. It’s a promising sign of things to come, but the crowd reaction to set closer and current single ‘Honey’ shows that Swim Deep are doing pretty damn well as they are. They come back to Nottingham in February for a headline tour – it’s one not to miss.
Spector take to the stage one by one, with the cheers getting progressively louder until a huge roar erupts as Fred MacPherson walks onto the stage. Except it’s not Fred. It’s Cav, Swim Deep’s bassist (and mate of MacPherson), wearing the trademark round glasses and sporting a silly grin. “Hi, we’re Spector” he announces to laughter, before he runs off and is replaced by the real Fred MacPherson. Introductions completed, Spector launch into ‘Twenty Nothing’ and it’s clear that the years spent playing every toilet venue in the UK haven’t been wasted by MacPherson – he is the consummate performer, playfully cajoling the crowd into a frenzy. The set is heavily drawn from Enjoy It While It Lasts, and a couple of odd set choices aside (‘Grey Shirt and Tie’, a ballad, is played second) it’s clear that it’s an album built for the live arena. Every song is a sing-a-long, with the biggest cheers reserved for singles ‘Chevy Thunder’ and ‘Celestine’, before a mighty rendition of ‘Never Fade Away’ closes the set, accompanied by seemingly the whole of the Rescue Rooms audience.
It’s fair to say that Enjoy It While It Lasts received a lukewarm critical reception, and at times the band does feel like a lightweight indie band plucked from the mid-noughties. There will be lingering doubts about the appetite for Spector’s music on record beyond a second album, but with the industry more live-focussed than ever, and a charismatic frontman, there’s a strong chance Spector will be around for plenty more years to come.
Jonnie has been listening to Tame Impala – Lonerism