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Friday, June 16, 2017

Gleaming Spires - Welcoming a New Ice Age

Name: Gleaming Spires
Album: Welcoming a New Ice Age
Year: 1985
Style: New Wave
Similar Bands: Devo, Squeeze, Violent Femmes, Sparks, Talking Heads, INXS, A's, Alarm, Big Country.
One Word Review: Eccentric Sound-Scapes
Based Out Of: LA, CA
Label: Tabb Records
 Welcoming a New Ice Age: Cover, Liner Notes, Record
 Welcoming a New Ice Age: Cover, Liner Notes, Record
Welcoming a New Ice Age: Credits Close-up
Welcoming a New Ice Age (1985)
  1. Bigger than Life 3:10
  2. The Things I Have Done to Out Love 3:58
  3. Blowing Up My Life 3:46
  4. What's Coming Next 3:15
  5. Unprotected 3:12
  6. Harm 5:38/
  7. Mercy 3:51
  8. Welcoming A New Ice Age 4:24
  9. Tearaway 4:39
  10. No One Coming Over 2:33
  11. Your Secret Room 3:45
Album Rating (1-10): 8.0

Members & Other Bands:
Les Bohem - Vox, Bass, Guitar, Synth (Bates Motel, Sparks, Steve Gillette)
David Kendrick - Drums, Percussion (Bates Motel, Sparks, Devo, Visiting Kids)
Bob Haag - Guitars, Backing Vox (Bates Motel, Sparks)
Jimbo Goodwin - Keys (Sparks, The Call, Tommy Mandell, Sam Phillips, Mark Heard)
Greg Penny - Synth, Guitars, Backing Vox, Production (4-3-1, KD Lang, Martini Ranch, Poperetta, Lisa Nemzo, Eddi Reader)
Bobby Moore (Horns of Desire) - Sax (& The Rhythm Aces, Detroit Spinners, Stylistics, Count Basie & His Orchestra)
Donna Wylie (Horns of Desire) - Trumpets
Katia Empkowicz Penny (Passionettes) - Backing Vox
Patty Foley (Passionettes) - Backing Vox
Beau Wesley (Passionettes) - Backing Vox
The Happy Boy (Passionettes) - Backing Vox
The Party God (Passionettes) - Backing Vox
Fanny Penny (Passionettes) - Backing Vox
Jonathan Gold - Cello (Human Hands, Savage Republic Johanna Went)
Campbell Naismith - Bagpipes
Coolwhip - Mixing
Rick Butz - Recording
John Golden - Mastering
Bill Allen - Photography
Endre Bohem - Photo Bar Patron
Peter Turner - Photo Bar Patron
Karen Smythe - Photo Bar Patron
Mr Penguin - Photo Bar Patron
Frank the Bartender - Photo Bar Patron

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band. But i like the name...sounds like it may be an interesting, edgy new wave band. Coupled with the new wave fashions in the cover art, and the map-like drawling & descriptions on the sleeve, there is a lot of focus on a band personality that seems exciting and timely. Hoping for some energetic fun new wave music here.

Album Review: The Gleaming Spires, or the heart of the band, at the very least, were the backing band for Sparks in the early 80’s. They have songs in films like The last American Virgin and Revenge of the Nerds, and David Kendrick went on to be in Devo.

“Bigger than Life” is light, starting off feeling like an INXS song. It features horns in the background of the chorus, creating an in-your-face pop sound, further emphasizing the INXS comparison, and a little Joe Jackson. It has a little blue-collar A’s feel, too. The end is a good-feeling, happy fade out, with all the instruments coming together bombastically.
“The Things I Have Done to Out Love” is a little more cold and barren as the song starts, reminding me of the Alarm. The build to the chorus gains a little pop, side-to-side swagger. The drums really stand out as the main driving force, produced with a slight echo.
“Blowing Up My Life” takes it down to a keyboard synth slow dance. It is sentimental, and feels like middle school. It is kind of a sleepy song, stripped down of dense production, sounding a little unfinished and reflective. Toward the end, backing vocals join to repeat the title in chorus.
“What's Coming Next” fades in with an anxious new wave bouncy rhythm, reminding me a little of Devo…it is a little sinister in tone, with quick angular Buzzcocks-style chord changes paired with the catchy hook. The instrumental section is peppered with horns, giving it a vibrant urgent importance. The song is a continuous, never-let-down controlled sprint.
“Unprotected” starts with theatrical vocals only, reminding me of Sparks. A pulsing keyboard is added, and the song fully enters into theatrical-musical realm, as a minimal accompanied vocal display, again, much like Sparks. The chorus is an emotional uttering of the song title, rising up in disappearing hope and the feeling of forlorn.
“Harm” gets more funky with buzzy synth and a deep tribal bellowing and bass. Oingo Boingo + Devo + Residents -like in song style and vocal style. The notes are not always on key, creating an itchy feeling, like something is out of sorts, just needing to be set right- which musically is a great way to push a song along. To add to the uncomfortableness of the song, they add a neurotically played violin. The vocal chorus adds in with a clear, catchy melody. The song grows, combined elements, venturing into late-XTC epic song-scaping territory, with elements of both the Talking Heads and Violent Femmes.

“Mercy” starts side two with a much more straight forward new wave song. Power chords and short building vocals segments fit together to create a perfect pop template. It feels a little Big Country-ish with the style of synth employed.
“Welcoming A New Ice Age” continues the windswept, tundra-esq songscape, with crystalline, echoing xylophone backing effects and soaring guitars. As this was a big style of the 80’s it never had quite a perfect fit as with the title and theme of this song. The drum beat keeps the whole song upbeat, and peppy.
“Tearaway” is a sedated synth track that feels like it could be from twin peaks at the first measure. The backing flute synth breaks out of the Badalamenti style, and takes us to another thematic Sparks-like slow song. There is a backing vocal that is robotic and synth-pitch processed, buried behind the lead vocals, that sings the title over and over on cue.
“No One Coming Over” starts as straight forward jangle pop, with some odd synth elements. Including more layered robotic vocals when the title is sung. The song is slightly devious, and lends itself to the Sparks Catalogue pretty easily, if only separated by the spot light on the overly jangly guitar. The bass line reminds me of an Oingo Boingo song, “Pictures of You” but all the sinister tone is sapped out by the rest of the song.
“Your Secret Room” is a very different style from the rest of the songs on the album…there is a county /acoustic sound to the track. From the first line, it sounds like the Violent Femmes, with near-exact tonal inflection of Gordon Gano’s style. Female harmonizing backing vocals are very apparent here, which enhances the country appeal, and they use bagpipes to end the song, which also end the album in solo form. 

Stand Out Track: What's Coming Next

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