Say Psych: Album Review: The Spyrals – Same Old Line

Los Angeles based The Spyrals have this week released their fourth LP Same Old Line via Fuzz Club Records. Taking cues from The Velvet Underground, 13th Floor Elevators and The Stooges by way of Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Muddy Waters, the record sees the band carve out eight songs of raw, back-to-basics rock’n’roll that marries white-knuckle garage-blues, psychedelic repetition and sun-baked alt-country to create “something new with an old soul”.

Arriving off the back of their 2012 self-titled debut, 2013’s Out of Sight and last year’s The Curse, Same Old Line marks a new chapter for the band who have spent the last decade picking up a growing international reputation for their fuzzed-out, driving rock’n’roll. They’ve played with the likes of Spectrum/Sonic Boom, Moon Duo, Fuzz, The Warlocks and Spindrift and performed at such festivals as SXSW, Desert Stars Festival, LA Psych Fest and in 2015 they even headlined a festival in Southern Russia (‘Spring Beat Festival’), one of the first US bands to play in the area. Right before the Covid-19 lockdown set in this year they’d also wrapped up a headline European tour just in the nick of time.

Armed with a guitar, harmonica and fuzz pedal, band-leader Jeff Lewis formed The Spyrals when he was living in San Francisco in the early 2010s. Now, though, he’s based in Los Angeles and finds himself backed by a new line-up of musicians. ‘Same Old Line’ was cooked up in new drummer Dash Borinstein’s garage and recorded over the course of a few days and nights straight to a Tascam tape machine. Jeff recalls: “This is the first album recorded with a new line-up after I moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles. At the time of recording we weren’t sure if this would be a Spyrals album or something under a different name. At some point during the mixing process I decided to keep moving on under the Spyrals name, so to me this album is a real turning point in the band’s history.” The result is a record that’s just as rooted in the sounds of Nashville and the Mississippi Delta as it is the band’s West Coast garage-rock forebears. “I was heavy into listening to a lot of Neil Young and Crazy Horse during this period too which I can hear in some of the song structures. We actually all took a road trip to Bakersfield, CA to see Neil with Crazy Horse in concert around the time of working on the album.” Lyrically, Jeff says, “it feels like the most raw record so far and the most open and down to earth. Less psychedelic sounds and more real life emotions and situations.”

Opening with title track ‘Same Old Line’, the band explain that it is a song about “life’s ups and downs and how some people seem to have it easier than others. We’re all tied together whether we know it or not and in the end we all have our different struggles to get by and keep living.” It’s a garage rock track, but it is laden with psychedelic and blues tendencies that grab your attention. ‘Don’t Turn Me Down’ marks its own way with a defiant tone that is “trying to stay positive when obstacles seem to keep coming in the way”, it will appeal to many when all we can do at the moment is stand up and be counted. ‘In Your Room’ is pure psychedelia, with lazy guitars fading in and out and a heart-warming story at its core about “wanting something to work out that you know won’t be possible”. ‘Goodbye’ sees you transported to the heart of the bayou through the medium of blues infected garage rock; its raw edge is somehow finally honed in its production and ‘There’s A Feeling’ continues this theme, talking about love and travelling “two things that can be hard to do at the same time”. ‘Sympathy’ is a heart breaker in itself, with a wrenching countenance that pulls you deep whereas ‘Just Won’t Break’ is a song about the American Dream and it’s hopeless shortcomings, Jeff offering the following advice for his fellow country-men and -women: “Don’t let it get you down. Most of us are still waiting for it to come true” – apt for election week. Concluding with ‘Bleed’, a track that brings it all together; bits of highs, bits of lows, and all mastered in a way that could only be The Spyrals.

In these dark days, albums like this are warming and carry positive messages that are sorely needed. The Spyrals have brought us Same Old Line when we needed it most.

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