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I must have listened to Spider Bags' most recent album 'Shake My Head' at least 100 times. To my ears it's right up there with Bikes' self-titled LP and anything by Ty Segall or The Intelligence in terms of untouchable modern-day garage pop (if you know me, you'll know that's high praise indeed). It looks like I'm not the only one who noticed, because this time round they've moved to Superchunk's legendary Merge Records.
It's with a mixture of trepidation and excitement, then, that I put the needle down on their new mini-LP 'Frozen Letter', bulging with eight songs in just over half an hour, but any wariness is quickly dispelled by the sugar rush of opener 'Back With You Again In The World', a barrelling garage-blues boogie with some seriously hooky and bright fuzz guitar and a sweet little sax solo.
Things rattle along these fuzzy and energetic lines for the bulk of side A, another highlight coming on track four where John Wesley Coleman III pops up to add some vocals to his own song, 'Summer of '79', but the album seems to take a bit of an unexpected turn on 'Coffin Car', a weary and wibbly Americana ballad with lazily overlapping electric guitars, a falsetto "ooh-ooh-ooh" chorus and softly shuffling drums.
Over on side B things get yet more downbeat on 'Walking Bubble', a dreamy mostly-acoustic number that really reminds me of New York antifolk types like Joie Dead Blonde Girlfriend or Jeff Lewis. Then label honcho/Superchunk veteran Mac McCaughan turns up to add some fuzzy wah guitar to 'We Got Problems', a rockier number that maintains the country/pub-rock plodding tempo of the prior two songs but with more of a dirty swagger, a big psychedelic rock-out at the end and a vocal melody right out of 'Wish You Were Here'. Finally 'Eyes of Death' is a decent enough bit of slightly Lantern-ish '70s rock.
My conclusion would be that it's very good, especially side A, but the second half drags a little in places and if you're not familiar with Spider Bags yet I'd recommend starting with 'Shake My Head' and then moving on to this. That said, they do seem to be moving in an interesting Thee Oh-Sees-psych kind of direction in places here and I'm very interested to hear where it leads!
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- Frozen Letter by Spider Bags
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