Artist: The Spits
Title: IV/ School's Out (I've seen it called both)
Label: Thriftstore Records
Release date: August 2009
The Spits, one of this decade’s best and most overlooked punk bands, are back with a fourth self-titled album filled with more weird electronic punk songs chock full of catchy riffs and apocalyptic visions.
The group mixes The Ramones’ simplicity and cartoonish tough guy images, today’s lo-fi garage punk sounds and the radiator punk weirdness of classic groups like The Screamers or Devo to create a sound that has made for a string of great albums and sloppy yet amazing live shows.
Their live presentation also includes costumes, and not in an absurd Slipknot kind of way. The Spits have been known to make dinosaur costumes out of boxes or mummy outfits out of toilet paper. When they played Atlanta last fall, they were druids wearing aviator sunglasses. No one outside of Austria garage rockers, Batman and Robin, and possibly your girlfriend has more fun playing dress up.
On their newest album, the band churned out ten more modern punk classics.
The opener, “Tonight,” is the type of bitter anti-love song with pop sensibilities you would expect to hear from some of their U.K. punk predecessors, while “Rip Up The Streets” effectively mixes distorted vocals with simple three-chord punk rock and hypnotic keyboard parts. Actually, that last description covers almost all of their songs since they hit the scene in 2000.
The Spits clearly get a steady diet of American punk and hardcore classics other than The Ramones, like The Zero Boys or Dead Kennedys, as songs like “Live in a Van” and “Police” would not sound out of place on a compilation of domestic punk standards.
“Eyesore City” is a standout, as it has the type of apocalyptic lyrics that go well with sloppy electro-punk. It is reminiscent of an early Spits song called “19 Million A.C.” or some of T.V. Smith’s darker lyrics he penned while with The Adverts.
“School’s Out” is another strong number, with over the top lyrics about slashing your teacher’s tires. At risk of flogging the Ramones comparisons to death, they might have written this one 30 years ago if all four of them and not just Dee Dee had been on drugs.
This album does not let up, as all ten songs are keepers. In fact, this may be their best effort top to bottom, though none of the songs are quite as good as classics like “Remote Control,” “Let Us Play Your Party,” and “Violence Cup.”
Where do The Spits fit when it comes to today’s garage-punk royalty? They consistently put on great live shows, just like Atlanta’s Black Lips, and everything they touch seems to turn to gold, even when they try something new - just like Jay Reatard. It would not be a stretch to say they are on the level of those two groups and also King Khan’s bands.
They hail from Seattle, so that’s a plus in their favor, too. In fact, Steve E. Nix from The Briefs and Cute Lepers was the first person to let me know that Seattle has a hidden punk rock treasure that has been consistent for nearly a decade.
Head to Little 5 Points this weekend and flip through record bins until you see this record’s bizarre cover. It’ll be $12 well spent.