SPEAR OF DESTINY: Grapes of Wrath / One Eyed Jacks / World Service: CD / CD / CD

May 26, 2008

Sometimes listening to a band’s recorded output in one sitting is like reading a Dickens novel, in that you hear their earliest—and usually happiest—period, followed by their brush with fame and its corrupting influence, which of course leads to their inevitable downfall. SOD’s first here, Grapes of Wrath, is easily the most interesting of the three: less aggressive and angry than previous bands some members had staffed, specifically The Pack (whose “St. Teresa” remains a great song, but I digress) and the always swell Theatre of Hate, yet still retaining the post-punk fascination with tribal rhythms and adding an almost disembodied saxophone, a singer with a strong, rich voice, and even some gospel tinges around the edges. By the middle of the tale, however, more obvious pop overtures had begun to creep in, which led them to a bonafide hit song and, no doubt, all that it brings. One Eyed Jacks is not a bad album, and it even is singled as the band’s best by their fans. As history has shown repeatedly, any intentional pandering to the mainstream carries a heavy price, and by their final album, World Service, they were in a full-blown ‘80s British pop morass, sucking six ways from Sunday. By the end of the last note on the last album, you’re looking around, wondering where that crazy old lady in the flambé-style wedding dress popped off to and why she didn’t take the band with her. 

 –jimmy (Cherry Red)