Album Reviews

Spokes – Everyone I Ever Met

(Counter) UK release date: 17 January 2011

Manchester quintet Spokes know their music. Theirs is a sound of monumental proportions; a philosophy of simple structures wrought on an aurally epic scale. But that’s not the limit of their know-how.

Spokes, you see, pitch towards fashionably epic trends that have seen the music industry move its steely gaze from the minimal rock of The Strokes and The White Stripes to the sprawling multi-instrumentalism and grandiosity of Arcade Fire and Kings Of Leon respectively. Spokes have also soaked their signature sound in the folk-laden principles so prevalent throughout the influential scene bands of California, Portland and Toronto (see Sleepy Sun, Mus�e M�canique and Snowblink).

This freshman long-player, then – Everyone I Ever Met – immediately begs the question: have Spokes chosen to emerge at the crest of a wave, or has the wheel already turned? Not that such concerns really matter of course, should the album live up to its creators’ burgeoning promise. And to a large extent it does.

Opener 345 reverberates into earshot, its ultra-simple guitar progression and poetic, Lancashire-accented vocals immediately evoking Elbow‘s introspections. It’s something of a curveball though, as the track patiently grows into a rousing, rollicking chorus of voices more reminiscent of any one of a number of sprawling indie-folk collectives, complete with lush orchestral flourishes.

Juxtaposing this statement of intent with lead single We Can Make It Out is a smart move, its joyous dynamism every bit the equal of its predecessor. One wonders, though, if lyrical expression plays second fiddle to the soundscape: the voices resonate loudly, but discerning what is being said is far from simple.

Nevertheless, Spokes plough their furrow with a self-confidence that belies the tender, toned down passages that populate the album. The title track – an eight-minute effort – doffs its cap to Win Butler and co with a thorough, layered and thudding-yet-melodic intro that gradually gives way to crashing, sprawling�but perhaps ever-so-slightly inaccessible expanses; Give It Up To The Night plumps for piano simplicity, its second half as harmonic as a Coldplay album closer; the hurtling Torn Up In Praise injects much-needed tempo as affairs begin to flag.

And flagging, it may seem, is the nature of the album’s – admittedly minor – flaw. Take Peace Racket: adopting the patience of its trackmates, it grows slowly into something altogether louder, broader and more vibrant. Such reliance on this method soon sounds like a crutch, however, when one feels that�the album ought to be kicking on with something a little different. One man’s “epic” is, after all, another man’s “drawn out”.

While such concerns may seem trifling within the context of an album otherwise brimming over with effortless beauty, evocative soundscapes and authentic musicianship that combine to form an altogether entirely agreeable mass – particularly in a coda that includes the timeless-sounding Happy Needs Colour and bluesy, heartfelt closer When I Was A Daisy, When I Was A Tree – Spokes have certainly left a little room for improvement. It must be a good omen though, to produce something good and suggest at something great.

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Spokes – Everyone I Ever Met