[25 June 2014]
Divine Fits is one of the newest in a long line of “supergroups” that stretches almost as far back as modern popular music. The truth is though, the term supergroup is not one that fills me with any large amount of excitement and even borders on having a negative connotation.
Maybe this is because a supergroup can be a bit like an all-star game. Sure, whether it’s the NBA, Major League Baseball, or any other area of sports that features teams, the game is meant to display the best of the best, doing what they are best at. However the teams are split, they each have a collection of talent that makes them any fan’s dream team. Despite all this flair, there is always something missing. The game lacks that motivation from each and every member to work together in a collaborative effort to become more than the sum of their parts. Yes they may be the best, but no one is taking any risks, and there isn’t anything at stake.
This is how I feel when listening to most of the musical supergroups I have come across. Despite this obvious prejudice, Divine Fits did not give me this impression at all. Its two leading men, Brit Daniel of Spoon and David Boeckner of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, have each had their share of success. Spoon continue to have success, recently playing their single “Rent I Pay” on NPR and announcing the release date of their upcoming album, They Want My Soul. Despite all this, they have found not only the time to make Divine Fits a reality, but have put enough effort and care into the band to make it seem genuine.
Divine Fits gave their audience a chance to get a feel of what they can bring to their live performances when they decided to record their concert at Third Man Records, a studio and company started by Jack White in 2001.
Live at Third Man Records contains only one song not featured on the band’s first release, 2012’s A Thing Called Divine Fits, but what a bold choice that one song was. Brit Daniel decides to go way out of the box, and perhaps even his own comfort zone, in a potent cover of Frank Ocean’s “Lost” from his Grammy winning album Channel Orange. The Fits keep the funky bass line of the source material but infuse the unmistakable vocals of Daniel, immediately and seamlessly taking the song from a R&B jam to a pure rock song.
The rest of the live recording consists entirely of tracks from their debut album. Other than some small, cosmetic changes—a little less synth here, a longer drum solo there—the songs play almost exactly as they do on the album. This is where Live at Third Man Records begins to lose my interest. Yes, these are all above average songs with a few tracks that are truly great, but why am I buying, or let’s be honest, downloading them a second time?
While I know the very concept of a live album relies on the fact that listeners want another taste of previously done material, it works better when the group has more to pick from than one album. A band with an extensive catalog, i.e. Daniel’s main project Spoon, can mix together their newer tracks with songs that haven’t been heard live for years to give a certain amount of authenticity to the album.
Live at Third Man Records is a quality album, but so was A Thing Called Divine Fits. While still one of the best supergroups out there, this release is a bit forced and perhaps unnecessary.