SPIRITUAL CRAMP: Self-titled: LP

Jan 24, 2024

I was gonna make a couple good-natured jokes about how Spiritual Cramp’s affinities for samples and cool clothes remind me of Mick Jones’s early ’90s Stüssy era, and how a friend had the band ruined when someone compared their singer’s bellow to the dude from Voodoo Glow Skulls. But, fact of the matter is that Spiritual Cramp have been one of my favorite bands for a few years now—turning out a kind of post-punk/garage rock discomfort food that fits between Otis and oi on a playlist—and they’ve leveled up with their debut LP, a slick, ten-song banger that’s just a bit longer than a sitcom. Spiritual Cramp’s sound is hard to pin down: punchy and nervy, with a U.K. ’77-ish facility for dub that snakes through the album, bracketing rockers, prodding riffs along with fluid guitar leads, and holding songs down as basslines, a sturdy thread through an already tight record. The end result is an early-’00s rock mélange, The Hives’ hammy rock’n’roll with Interpol’s buttoned-up brooding, four-chord fist-pumpers with anthemic hooks repeated enough times to memorize on first play. This San Francisco band started off raw and dark, evolving into today’s machine over the course of a few EPs. In that time, vocalist Michael Bingham has gained confidence on the mic, dropping the David Byrne quaver from his deep voice, leaving a louche, Iggy Poppish yelp that fits his POV as the poet laureate of graffiti guys who steal shit at parties. The lyrics are about trying to keep the world’s chaos from invading your life—for every line about a riot, there’s something far more specific about anxiety or lying to loved ones about how hard you’re partying. And, for all the worry in the lyrics, it sounds like the band had fun making this. The songs are peppered with synth handclaps and sampled “Let’s go”s. It’s a pro job, eminently listenable, and I’ve played it almost every day in the month since it dropped. Spiritual Cramp put on a slick show in L.A. right before this album came out. We’re talking a video projection with cool cityscapes and their name in graffiti, dancey between-song music, fun sample drops, and some well-timed shirt removal. They crushed. It was cool to see a band that sings about tripping over their own thoughts getting a crowd to switch their brains off and have fun. Hopefully they can find peace and do the same. They’ve gone big, and it fits better than Mick Jones’s bucket hats. –Chris Terry (bluegrapemusic.com)

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