Jaws. Schindler’s List. Close Encounters of the Third Kind – All films. All classics. All directorially Spielberg’s.
AI: Artificial Intelligence. Jurassic Park: The Lost World. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – All films. All Spielberg’s. All bloody awful.
Naming yourself as a nod to one of the most acclaimed directors of all time, as is the case with Oslo’s Spielbergs, sets you up for naysayers like me to frame reviews like this with beginnings like that. Before you start to fear a complete hatchet job coming up, let’s retain perspective. Steven Spielberg’s aforementioned turkeys aren’t even that bad. The worst they can do is leave you feeling a couple of hours older. They’re hardly Sharknado.
And so it goes with Spielbergs’ debut album, This Is Not The End, which has everything on it from the sublime to the listenable. Bearing in mind that anyone with PR representation is hyped nowadays (the hyperbole comes with the territory) you’re likely to listen to this debut and concur not only with the title, but also with the interest and airplay they’ve gleaned from broadcasters recently.
Much as you’ll see ‘Five On It’ as the title of the album opener and hope for an indie-rock cover of the 1995, West Coast hip-hop track by Luniz (the only song I know to contain the word ‘asthma’), what you get is a sprint-start of a song, all pomp and growl. It’s refreshingly abrasive, like a sonic exfoliant – very Bob Mould-y and a bit Dinosaur Jr (was the ‘J’ in J Mascis for Jurassic?).
Stylistically varied, the album might divide listeners into the ‘liking the variety’ and ‘just decide on your sound’ camps. It’s not like they flit from post-punk to Mongolian throat singing, via slowcore, but after feeling the force of their fuzzed guitarsenal at the start, you’ll hear stuff that’s a largely more fizzy than fuzzy, as well as elements of a time-travel hybrid U2 sound. Imagine their more produced 90s sound jamming with their more raw early-80s vim, but without any trace of annoying, lead singer pontification.
Elsewhere, there’s post-punk, pop-punk and post-hardcore. One of their early, break-out tracks, ‘We Are All Going To Die’ will please connoisseurs of shred with its ‘David Gedge vs Frank Black’ style ‘plectrums of mass destruction’ ending. The other high point of the album is ‘4AM’. If you’re going to be up at that time of the morning, you’ll want a song like this to keep you going.
In contrast, something like ‘Bad Friend’ sounds like a Foo Fighters/Jimmy Eat World off-cut. The ten-minute interlude of ‘McDonalds (Don’t Fuck Up My Order)’ and ’Sleeper’ as tracks eight and nine provide a contrasting lull to the explosive tumult elsewhere, including ‘4AM’. There’s plenty to like about the post-rock instrumental ‘tribute’ to the golden arches, and yet this segment might fall foul of digital-age track skipping.
Ending This Is Not The End with ‘Forevermore’ gives us a double sense that there’s plenty more to come from Spielbergs. A collaboration with their cinematic namesake, perhaps?
This Is Not The End is released on February 1st through By The Time It Gets Dark.