The Spitfires - 'Year Zero' Album Review
1. Remains The Same
2. Front Line
3. Over And Over Again
4. Something Worth Fighting For
5. By My Side
6. Move On
7. Sick Of Hanging Around
8. The New Age
9. Year Zero
I was interested to see what the Watford based 4-piece would do with their third album. Their first album 'Response' was released in 2015 to critical acclaim, but their second album 'A Thousand Times', released the following year had mixed reviews, as they moved from a solid British Beat sound to a more Indie sound. Having said that both albums peaked at Number 6 in the Independent charts. I would agree with the charts as both albums were very good in my humble opinion. Given their influences of 60s Modern music, Reggae and Ska, through to Punk and Soul, and Billy Sullivan's vocal delivery, it is very easy, or lazy, to draw comparisons to The Jam, and this may have led to the slightly different direction on the second album.
I will not be drawing comparisons to The Jam, as I suspect it is tiresome to the Spitfires now. They are their own band, and it is no surprise that there should be similarities to the way they sounds and the music that has influenced them. Oasis sounded like the Beatles, Greta Van Fleet sound like Led Zeppelin, and an old 60's band called the Rolling Stones started off sounding like Muddy Waters, or Little Walter. I don't think it did them any harm.
So without further ado, onto The Spitfires, third album, 'Year Zero', which opens with 'Remains The Same'. As if to confound their critics the track starts with a gentle intro, followed with a very Indie guitar riff. When it kicks in, there is a recognisable British Beat feel to it. The song sets the tone for the album, which is one of desperation for young working class people, and provides a punchy start to the album. The horns in the interlude in this track are ridiculously good. 'Frontline' has a more New Wave feel about it with punchy guitar and almost 60's keyboard work by George Moorhouse. It is a real mix of styles and with Billy's vocals it is an instantly memorable track. 'Over And Over Again' has a keyboard intro, very reminiscent of the Nutty Boys themselves, and again includes glorious horns. We have a pure slice of Ska with 'Something Worth Fighting For', from brass intro and slow guitar riff moving into the more recognisable choppy guitar style. It has a melancholy feel which is reinforced with the mournful horns and slow tempo. This track is worth it alone for the trumpet solo.
So far there has not been anything unpredictable about this album, but then we come to 'By My Side'. The simple keyboard intro gives a different feel to the previous tracks. Billy's vocals are clear and mournful, and at first it seems a reflective song. Then the female backing singers vocals kick in and for the rest of the song it is a duet. The chorus is up tempo and raises the whole spirit of the song. George Moorhouse gets the chance to shine on this as his keyboards are the most prominent instrument on the track. There is also a really good underlying bass line from Sam Long. The song builds and has layer upon layer. This is a seriously good track.
'Move On' is back to an edgy Ska sound, with excellent percussion from Matt Johnson. It has catchy guitar riffs and a chorus. You can hear The Clash influences throughout the track. This influence continuous on the barnstorming 'Sick Of Hanging Around'. The vocals bounce along with the rhythm of the track, giving it an anthemic quality. I would love to see this played live as I was bouncing up and down in the seat of my car the first time I heard it, which is probably not recommended for road safety. The whole group are so tight on this number. 'The New Age' followed, which is the second single from the album. The chorus is extremely catchy, especially when Billy spits out 'The New Age. The New Age'. This is probably the closest track the influencing band that I refuse to name.
The album changes direction with the title track 'Year Zero' which is an electronica dub cacophony of futuristic sound. Then all too soon the album ends, in more traditional manner with 'Dreamland', which is a slow tempo number, the Ghost Town for a new generation. It has all the elements of the album included in it. Great keyboards, choppy guitars, horns and a sublime bass line coupled with meaningful lyrics about the current uncertainty and austerity in 'England's Dreamland', one lyric that stood out was 'I'm not optimistic, I can't help how I feel. The revolution is awaiting a facebook event'. At a shade over five and a half minutes long this was a fitting closure to the album.
The production and running order on 'Year Zero' is spot on, and the mix of songs works really well. This is an album that will please all Spitfire fans, and probably win some more over. It is New Wave for a New Generation. It is not a Clash like album, Specials like, Madness or a Jam like Album. It is true that influences can be heard in this album, just as influences can be detected in most albums. This is a Spitfires Album and bloody good it is too! So if liked 'Response' and 'A Thousand Times' then get 'Year Zero'. If you have none of them then go on treat yourself and get all three!
‘Year Zero‘, to be released through Hatch Records on 27 July 2018.
Website - www.thespitfires.org
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/TheSpitfiresUk/
Review - Tony Creek