So, if you’re in the lucky position of being able to celebrate twenty-five years of being a band, how should you mark that milestone in style? Well, if you’re Dundee’s legendary lo-fi indie-pop band Spare Snare, you get in touch with legendary record producer Steve Albini. You ask him if he might be up for co-hosting a Scottish Engineers’ Workshop with the band, and recording (a word Albini has always seemed more comfortable with than producer) Spare Snare for the rest of the week.
Fortunately, for both the band, and for us, the answer was a definite yes. Creative Scotland stepped in to fund it, the band got to record ten songs with Albini from their back catalogue, and we, the listeners, get an album that stands strong in its own right. To top it off, the album was recorded at the legendary Chem 19 studios in Hamilton, where a number of legendary Scottish indie acts have recorded (including Delgados, Mogwai and Arab Strap).
Sure, the notion of re-recorded material doesn’t usually inspire confidence, evoking the memories of budget compilations that feature sub-standard versions of already available material. One of the real successes of this album is how it sounds fresh, as if these songs were always meant to be heard together. It’s a perfect introduction to the Snare – this is their thirteenth album and a fantastic album in its own right.
Not only that, but it’s amazing how the styles go from the mellow ‘Grow’ to the sneering and disarmingly self-deprecating ‘We Are The Snare.’ The former has dreamy trumpets, the latter plays off acoustic guitars against analogue synths that evoke the post-punk-new-pop snare of early Ultravox and equally early Human League. Sometimes the word ‘lo-fi’ can evoke the sensation that it might be a difficult listen. Not at all in the case of Sounds which is an album that’s easy to love, without being ‘easy listening’ (yet another point in its favour). As ‘Bugs’ draws the album to a close with its chorus of ‘Goodbye’ reflections show it’s been a brilliant thirty three minutes, sparking the urge to a)listen to it all again and b) listen to their substantial back catalogue.
There are days when I wonder if the word ‘indie’ means anything anymore, or even whether I’m still excited by music. There’s something so refreshing about this band that puts those sort of doubts aside. There’s an amazing indie pedigree to this album, which just adds to it all. Straightforward without being bland, exciting without being overblown. What more do we need?