The joke: What would happen if They Might Be Giants expatriated to England, dropped the musical gadgetry for four-on-the floor, kiddie-rocker sound, and started doing powerpop covers?
The punchline: pick up the record by the Swedish band The Spyders and find out.
All right, I know it’s cheap to simply describe one band as an amalgamation of others and call it a day. But with a five-track The Youngster EP, there’s really not much else to do. The songs, while pleasant enough, barely register on the Richter scale of innovation, showmanship, or out-and-out panache. Which leaves not very much to work with.
Tune in for 18 boppy minutes of caramelized indie rock, starting with the sun-scorched, straight ahead “The Youngster”. Andreas Svensson sounds a lot like the frontman for the Bluetones, which, if you’ve ever listened to them, is a mildly annoying way to sound. On the chorus, he’s joined by Alabama, the typical lady-foil that seems standard in this brand of cotton candy rock. The supporting music is clean though unremarkable guitar chords, secondary bass and even more muted drums.
Following are the slightly darker “Song for You” and “Hey Hey” which suffer from what I call the Rick Astley syndrome—the ability to sing multiple songs by the same artist over one another because they’re about the same key, tempo and attitude. Even the subject matter matches—it’s like a Martha Stewart bedding set.
By the time the album’s last track rolls around, you’re definitely ready for those sheets to change—and they do, slightly. “Summer of Love” is one of those rolling, multi-movement bat-out-of-hell numbers, in the spirit of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Except, it’s not. All the drama of the shifting tempo and style—between a psychedelic hallucinogen and a stinging freebase—is lost because they seemingly lack the talent or the gall to step up the intensity.
Overall, the Spyders seem to timidly go where many, many, many bands have gone before. But I’ll give them a break—because after all, we’re living in an era of forgiveness.