The first album release of 2015 by Clubhouse Records was always going to be something a bit special. My favourite label keeps it's finger on the pulse of superb Americana, Country & Folk. And I was dying to see what came out of the traps first.
The beginning of the year brought us the sublime Darkest Before The Dawn EP by The Dreaming Spires, which was just the perfect aperitif for the main course to come.
Comprising of brothers Robin & Joe Bennett, together with drummer Jamie Dawson, The Dreaming Spires have brought us their sophomore release, the magnificent
Searching For The Supetruth.
If their debut album, Brothers In Brooklyn, found the band searching for a sound, the Dreaming Spires have certainly found their sound with this album. It's a swirly, organic, joyous experience. With Robin Bennett writing all of the songs - the last 3 as co-writes - it's a natural progression from it's predecessor.
Searching For The Supertruth opens with the 70s Glam Rock stomp of Still Believe In You. With a pounding beat, soaring harmonies, psychedelic guitar swirls, it calls to mind a 1960/70s soundscape brought right up to date in 2015.
Robin writes a lot of the songs based on real stories and experiences - the same characters keep popping up on various songs in The Dreaming Spires repertoire. This opening track, is one such song. But it doesn't mean that Robin can't be creative with his wordplay.
'The revolution that you just can't feel holding on for something real in this endless galaxy, this strange depravity that holds you with its gravity down.'
The lyrics have definitely taken a more interesting route with this new album. Robin isn't afraid to ask the difficult questions and ponder on the even bigger ones.
I haven't heard such a great opening track to an album for quite some time. It just makes you want to jump up and thrash that Air Rickenbacker 360/12.
photo courtesy of Megan Bennett
With just enough time to take a breath we're straight in with track two as the jangling guitars and speaker to speaker drums bring in All Kinds Of People. It's an anthemic joy and features questioning and anwering guitar phrases over tuneful drumming from Jamie that brings to mind Keith Moon from The Who. The track features a terrific wailing guitar that just begs to be answered.
'There are some kinds of people who don't think before they speak, there are some kinds of people who prey upon the weak.'
While you are left trying to catch your breath the boys just push the sound that much further with those jangling Rickenbackers & Danelectros, with what sounds like backwards guitar which The Beatles & The Byrds trademarked back in the 60s, which provide the backing to the truly magnificent title track, Searching For The Supertruth. The Spires have never been ashamed of showing their influences such as The Byrds, The Beatles, Big Star, Tom Petty - to name but a few. The guitars and multi-layered harmonies (the kind which only siblings can seem to conjure up) bring to mind these terrific musical influences.
'Sometimes you're a ripple, sometimes you're a wave, sometimes you're a footnote at the bottom of the page.'
After the breathtaking first three tracks, the Spires then slow the pace down with one of the more alternative sounding tracks on the album, the distinct shuffle of Strange Glue with an insistent piano riff. This is the first track that gets me thinking that Robin Bennett may have the spirit of Ray Davies buried underneath that skin of his. His wordsmithery and vocal phrasing bring to mind that great songwriter.
Although hailing from Oxfordshire, The Dreaming Spires have always had every other heartbeat in America and the next track up, the plaintive and intoxicating Easy Rider has the taste of the desert and the plains. It reminds me in structure of the excellent Johnathan Wilson track called Moses Pain from his Fanfare album. And at the moment, it is my favourite track on the album. It builds from a gentle balled into a widescreen epic. I have been privileged to see the guys perform this track live, with Simon from the band The Rosellys on extra guitar and it sounds like one of those 70s American classics like Freebird.
Robin Bennett & Simon Roselly
The next track sees the band return to America for their inspiration with another show stopping track (this album has SO many highlights) the EPIC Dusty In Memphis. The track has an autobiographical feel to it - again bringing to mind the great Ray Davies. The track starts off with a pounding beat and builds into a hymnic anthem with layered guitars and even sax provided by Geoff Widdowson (or Free Jaaz Jeff) from Danny & The Champions Of The World (of whom Robin & Joe have been members in the past).
YOU KNOW WE GOT SOUL!!!!!
If this was the end of the album, you'd have thought that you'd have heard a classic album. But, there's even more....
The calm always follows the storm and after the emotional storm of Dusty In Memphis we are brought down to earth again with the beautiful, We Used To Have Parties. This is a glistening, shimmering, slow dance of a track featuring the sublime vocals of Sarah Cracknell (from St Etienne - with whom Robin & Joe have been working recently). It has a gorgeous melody and is coloured by the lovely lap steel of Joe Bennett.
This version with the excellent Lisa Redford on vocals
If I Didn't Know You sees The Spires return to the melodic, upbeat 60s jangling as Robin gives it the full McGuinn with lightning strumming opening into a song that Tom Petty or Roger McGuinn would have been proud to have written. It is joyous and uplifting and is really the only track that could have slipped easily onto their debut from this album. Such is the progression the band have made on Searching For The Supertruth.
Next up is the brief but slinky When The Magic Comes which sounds like a 70s track with it's electric piano & organ sounds.
The final track on the album is the 7 minute So Pretty. Based around an initial piano and bass riff, it sounds as if it's it's come straight from the Laurel Canyon writers of the 1970s. With Organ and guitars joining the magical swirling mix of the sounds. The Track then builds into an epic multi level musical experience. If last tracks often point the way to the next albums then we're in for a very interesting third album by The Dreaming Spires.
I have to admit that this record (yes, I have the vinyl version - which also includes the EP) has never been far from my music playing devices. I have played it countless of times and I still think it is a magnificent achievement. The songs are memorable and varied, both uplifting and emotional in equal measure.
The Brothers Bennett have created a majestic album only two albums in. What other musical beauties do they have up their sleeves? God Only Knows but any band that can namecheck Pacific Ocean Blue and The Madcap Laughs has a special place in my heart. And The Dreaming Spires certainly do.
And remember - The Answer's All Inside
Just get this album - if you have a turntable, invest in the vinyl. It's a double!
Twitter - @dreaming_spires