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2007-10-02: My review: eMusic.com / Spray - Children Of A Laser God

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Categories: All Music Tech

Music service notes first, album review after, so scroll down if you want to skip to that.

For some reason the Ninthwave Records site (revamped this year) only mentions Amazon and iTunes, and doesn't actually feature information for Children Of A Laser God except to say it was recorded in 2005. Odd. So I'd like to thank this blogger for mentioning it's available at eMusic. Unlike iTunes, eMusic offer normal high bitrate VBR MP3s. Their software client, eMusic Remote, seems to be a heavily customised installation of Firefox with a specialised download manager added. Top marks for the selection of tech to use in their business, and for not making people jump through hoops to get music onto their MP3 players.

Most of all, I'm impressed with the ease of signing up for a 25-track trial and no-hassle cancellation process. If I were ever in the market for rebilling subscription downloads, the company would get my business (provided, of course, enough artists I wanted stuff by were in their catalogue; I haven't delved into that in any great detail.) What would be preferable is an extra option to buy non-expiring credits for tracks, in something like 25/50/100 blocks. À la carte purchasing is a way of doing things I don't think most of the public will give up on anytime soon; the terms "rebill" and "subscription" just remind people of horror stories about forgetting to cancel and running up a huge tab. You could indirectly do this at the moment, creating/reactivating an account as necessary when you want an album or two, but it's awkward. They have everything else right; it would be nice to see the option formally adopted.

Late discovery... you can purchase Spray MP3s à la carte from a new Amazon service if you live in the US... I might see if the US address requirement can be circumvented, as I'm curious to hear this cover of You Spin Me Round (Like A Record).

Anyway... the album? In short is as good as I suspected, and I want a real CD copy. It's longer (more songs, no remixes) than Living In Neon and some tracks are a little more mellow, but its high points (picks: He Came With The Frame, Anthem For The Modern Artist, Pretend Girlfriend, Run With Us, the second triptych of You Eat One Lousy Foot And You're A Cannibal, It's All In The Drums and We Are The People Our Parents Warned Us About) are high. The album will want some proper settling in like Living In Neon — which I'm still picking out bon mots from — but with this second album I'm confident in picking out some favourites already. Jenny McLaren's vocals are powerful when needed, conversational when it suits, and I wouldn't want to imagine anyone else taking the role in future band ventures.

To geek out over one retro moment in particular, Run With Us will be familiar to 80s kids as the theme tune to The Raccoons. Here it's crisp and beat-backed (and the vox, whilst obviously different, are on a par with Lisa Lougheed's when given a background mix and timing as good as this — all of these factors make it more its own song rather than just being a straight cover. Throw in the styling being a bit euphoric trance — a type of dance music I actually like a bit — and the reinvention's a winner.)

It's not all strawberries and cream and orgasmic newness. Some tracks have a bit of overlap with their last album — Queen Of Summer is pleasant but very thematically and stylistically similar to Heatwavers from Living In Neon. There's at least one awkward "collision" with another artist in there: Love's Been Particularly Cruel To Me features the line "I travelled the world and the seven seas" and provokes mental clash with Marilyn Manson's cover of Sweet Dreams... there's even some rap in Catfight! — which wouldn't normally be my cup of tea — plus a few tracks veer towards repeating a witty title and spending less time captivating lyrically. So I think it'd be possible to whittle some tracks from the second quarter, but this is a very solid second full-length offering. And if the songs mentioned so far don't give it away, the material is often hilarious once you catch on to what's being sung...

Since I was there and had seven more tracks in the free trial, I got the first five tracks from a 2003 I Am Gothic remix project CD (including four non-IAG tracks: the original six-minute It's All In The Drums, an earlier He Came With The Frame, The Story Of My Life Is An FX Showreel & Whizz For Atoms), a one-shot called Synching For England that arranges the tune of Child Of The 80s with different lyrics, and a sparkly alternate version of We Are The People Our Parents Warned Us About. It's all infectiously enjoyable, if perhaps a little redundant taking into account "main" versions of songs being elsewhere.

Spray are criminally unknown, and their knack of cramming intelligent fluff into songs makes for some of the most entertaining and original music I've heard in years. I don't really consider the MP3s I've got as anything but previews, though they're fully legal and licensed. Hopefully a CD release will make it into Ninthwave's schedule for late this year or early next without too many delays.

Somewhat out-of-date Wikipedia page with a bit of background and links to Myspace and other sites: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spray_(band)


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