There is a fine line between winning eccentricity and clowning irritation, one that Spector’s Fred Macpherson patrols with the subtlety of Rush Limbaugh. At least his between-song meanderings, a mix of halting badinage and inspired one-liners, help set his five-piece apart from a rising tide of hopefuls reviving British guitar pop, among them Tribes and Various Cruelties.
When the London-based band emerged last year, Spector looked and sounded as if they were designed to make an instant impact. With suits as sharp as their hooks, they stood out as an actual group on the shortlist for the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll. Building on that kudos has proved tricky, as their first single for Fiction, the turbocharged ‘Chevy Thunder’, recently failed to trouble the charts. Handily, they can use a break from a support slot on Florence & The Machine’s arena tour to headline a smaller venue.
The former MTV presenter, boyfriend of Peaches Geldof and member of a couple of indie bands that got nowhere is soon into his stride. “It’s better playing to 300 – we let down less people,” Macpherson quips. Either no one told the soundman or Spector’s music is too big for this historic basement, as the drum machine beats of ‘What You Want’ clang mercilessly, backing vocals and keyboard stabs lost in the onslaught. When the levels balance out, songs fizz with ideas, usually someone else’s.
Sheer bravado propels ‘Celestine’, which retreads Springsteen-via-The Killers anthemic pop rock, though other numbers abort lift off. ‘Lay Low’ apes Ultravox’s stern balladry with the addition of a glitter stomp that chafes against it before being swamped by Chris Burman’s wailing guitar solo. Macpherson’s lyrics are just as lacking in subtlety. He may look bookish with his slick-backed hair and owlish, David Hockney spectacles, but any literary bent is lacking in evidence, as he relies on grand statements that allow him to declaim rather than sing.
‘Friday Night’ begins promisingly with “The honeymoon was over before the wedding had begun,” before he returns to bolshie terrace chants backed by handclaps. Over a punchy 45-minute set, such stridency continues unabated and only avoids grating because Spector carry enough charm to win through. ‘Chevy Thunder’ is a giddily ludicrous appropriation of American imagery, full of air-punching vim, before Macpherson leads the crowd on the stubborn promise of ‘Never Fade Away’. With his powerful self-belief, such sentiments become beguilingly persuasive.