Written by: Dave Cantrell
Let’s start with the word ‘unassuming.’ The seven lads that comprised The Spinto Band at the point of its release in 2005 would, by most outward measures, seem to have embodied those four syllables. Formed around 1996 in Wilmington, DE by a couple of brother duos – Sam and Thomas Hughes, Jeff and Jerry Hobson – along with high school buds Albert Binney and Jon Eaton, they were joined a year later by Nick Krill, whose grandfather Roy they would soon, um, nick the surname from and settle in to being The Spinto Band instead of the too teen-flippant Free Beer (or maybe it was stumbling across a copy of this 1976 album from a band of the same name that triggered that decision). So, let’s see, a gaggle of testoteroned teenaged boys getting together every weekend in the Hughes’ basement, where’s the story in that? Change the names of the participants and substitute any basement or garage in any locale anywhere in the rock’n’roll world and you have perhaps the most common aspirational tableau of the past sixty years, one that was experiencing an especially re-energized boost in the Strokes-inflected, guitar-centric, post-grunge new wave revivals days of this century’s first five years. Add in a rumpled fashion aesthetic that could make the Feelies seem elegant by comparison and imagine what the odds would be that we’d be celebrating a dozen years hence the debut album of such a modest and, yes, unassuming lot. Rather astronomical, you’d have to agree, were it not for the not-so-insignificant, if tres obvious, detail: the songs.
For a band consisting of, at the time of this debut, a handful of kids that were either very recently out of or just on the verge of graduating high school, the songcraft is utterly breathtaking; assured, captivating, varied, and sick with hooks. While it’s fair to say the Spintos at the time of formation had two or three generations of giants’ shoulders on which to stand, that’s just as true as their peers yet somehow precious few were able to synthesize with such offhand glee the many grand, inspired vistas available from that height. The quality of work produced by those so young is as quintessential a piece of the rock mythos – and our faith in it – as there is, and The Spinto Band, emerging out of the Delaware blue like they did, represent precisely the type of rare happenstance we marvel at when looking at the early histories of those very same giants, whether they harken from Liverpool, Swindon, Memphis, or Hawthorne, CA.
Like Big Star running on Rundgren’s genes, the pop here pops with a smart charm and a headlong buoyancy. Beyond its short, Python-like stop-the-tape bit, “Did I Tell You” serves as an eye- (and ear-) opening introduction to these upstarts from the Diamond State, rhythm guitar chopping with force, a galloping bassline, and a hiccuping, near-Hollyesque vocal, all in service to a level of melody and relentlessness guaranteed to increase pulse rates across the land. “Oh Mandy,” bristling along with the help of a crazily beavering-away, uke-imitating acoustic, traces a path seemingly carved out by the twin forces of “Good Vibrations” and, indeed, 10cc (with a touch of Talking Heads tossed in), its sense of breathless adolescent yearning, dense urgency and drop-dead earworm vocal melody ensuring its rightful place as the band’s best known track. Elsewhere, the dangerously infectious “Spy vs. Spy” marries early XTC – think “This is Pop!” – to an astute New Pornographers churn to delirious effect, “Crack the Whip” injects a power pop funk bassline into an LCD Soundsystem knowningness and comes up so trumps we’re left asking ‘Franz who?,’ while “Late” is a little Lou Reed in a lot of Jonathan Richman mode or vice versa but it matters not as, same as everywhere here, it’s pure Spinto down to its spangly-but-humble roots.
Capable of being simultaneously ironic and lovingly respectful – check the tacked-on “Japan is an Island” on disc 1 – quirky and intimate (“When Things Are Placid” on the embarrassment-of-riches B-Sides and Rarities bonus disc), experimental while grounded – “Let’s See What Develops (ibid) that plays the creative process off relationship dynamics (not to mention humor off of pathos – “Let’s see what develops/when I am the contract and you are the breach“), The Spinto Band is ripe for rediscovery for those that knew of them then, and an essential new find for those of us that missed them. This vinyl-only reissue of Nice and Nicely Done, from Bar/None as it was originally, also provides perfect succor against the bitter tonic of our current time. Nice when an album can accomplish all that by simply being there for the taking, which we highly recommend you do. [pick up Nice and Nicely Done from Bar/None here]