On first glance, the brooding Watford super group, Spy Catcher, are quite easy to pass over; their name is a little bland and their miserable, sullen, sun-glass-when-it’s-raining look screams outdated 90s Britpop. Yet, it would appear that since the release of debut album ‘Honesty’, Spy Catcher has become a name that is difficult to escape.
Air play on Radio 1, coverage from the biggest names in rock journalism and a place on the bill at Reading & Leeds, one is left demanding an answer to the question “how have they got so big in such a short space of time?”. There are two answers to this: the first and probably most important is that the music industry today hinges on who you know, which means when your band is comprised of members from Gallows, Haunts and Cry For Silence, Spy Catcher almost certainly have a considerable contact list to draw upon. However, there’s more to Spy Catcher than connections; ‘Honesty’ is a thoughtful and sagacious record, with versatility that fully utilises the eclectic talents of its respective member’s past musical endeavours, whilst presenting something completely new and allowing for a catch-all record that at its heights draws comparison to the likes of Queens Of The Stone Age and Biffy Clyro.
Intro track ‘Tabs’ is perhaps a tad misleading – the softest track on the album, fans of the bands previous forays will immediately wince with the lack of aggressive hardcore, punk and metal kicks to the face that they’ll be used to. However, the self-proclaimed Grit Poppers soon make claim to the former titles, with lead single ‘Don’t Like People’ showcasing an edge. Don’t be fooled, Spy Catcher are barely anything like their related acts, but the coarse vocals of Steve Sears offer a defining feature that sets Spy Catcher apart from the hundreds of other bands that are trying to dress pop music up as rock. As an added bonus, his voice is particularly British and in an age where insecure patriotism can fuel a listener’s music taste, those that love a bit of home-grown talent won’t be disappointed.
‘Remember Where You Were When Michael Jackson Died’ is the highlight of the record, with an obscure yet memorable key-based riff, a soaring string section and some wonderful harmonies, all forming an incredibly polished and relatable result. The production is purposefully understated but embossed enough to create images of grandeur, and by this point it becomes easy to draw comparisons between Sears‘ voice and that of The Cure‘s Robert Smith; the melancholy hums juxtaposed with upbeat melodies. Title track ‘Honesty’ presents the most meaningful track of the album, with emotional lyrics about family and child abuse, reminiscent of Good Charlotte’s sophomore album ‘The Young The Hopeless’ – with “You’re just a no good fucking disgrace” and “This one’s for those bitter stepdads”, definitively providing a point of interest for younger pop-punk fans.
‘Nobody Listens’ is a short, bass driven, fast-paced banger and echoes the influence of Haunts. Meanwhile, ‘There Is No Light’ is a quirky electronic effort, with the subtle low harmonies giving a nice bed for the vocals, which almost strangely provoke memories of U2 and Bono, a comparison that may make some shudder. Further, ‘Hold On’ combines a pounding bass-line, but still harks back to 80s English power-pop legend Pete Townshend.
When a band almost appears to have been handed success, the knee-jerk reaction is to hate them immediately. Add to this a pretentious image and they’re even more likely to be shunned. However, Spy Catcher‘s music speaks for itself; lyrics from the heart, hooks aplenty and integrity throughout, ‘Honesty’ is a fantastic entry and with the backing of the music industry, they could easily break ground and this may well spell a resurgence of decent Brit Pop and a revival of a genre that many thought died a decade ago.
Written by Ramsey Marwan