I’m pretty sure this band — and lead singer, Michael Bingham, thinks that Spiritual Cramp is spiritual cousins with Rancid. I’m just not seeing it. This is not, by any stretch, punk music. And despite Bingham’s claim [in a podcast I heard him on] that ska is the coolest, I don’t hear ska here either. What I do hear is incredibly catchy rock ’n’ roll that verges on power pop. Yeah, it’s not even indie rock per se. I mean, yes, it’s on a tiny indie label, but there is nothing sloppy, lo-fi or otherwise unprofessional about the music. Not that indie rock need be unprofessional, but there’s also nothing unpredictable about it. It sounds like a lot of other higher-end radio rock out there, but with something that is just such a fuckin’ bop.
You hear a lot of other bands in their music. Everything from pop punk to new wave to new wave redux. To a slightly more engaged version of Interpol’spost-punk (see the end of “Herberts on Holiday,” for example). I’m not saying there isn’t some punk pedigree here, but it’s way more Clash than it is Sex Pistols. Or even Ramones. So much so, it’s incredibly surprising these dudes aren’t English. Though I suppose that’s a choice. Or intentional, at least. It all reminds me of that era when Maximo Park and The Rakes and The Futureheads were all the sort of rage. Ok, we’ll give them Arctic Monkeys and Bloc Party. That kind of clean, dancey rock ’n’ roll that is just so pleasing. When they’re not doing a less screamy version of The Hives.
It’s all to say that Spiritual Cramp embodies a very specific sound that kind of surrounds the music they probably listened to and valued, but really doesn’t embody it. This doesn’t feel particularly DIY given the head-bobbing, well-produced nature of it all. Do I think it would be better with some squeals here and there? Some mis-hits? Some sloppiness? I don’t know. I think it’s right on the edge of being over-produced, without going over. Because this kind of pop rock is the kind of pop rock we should have more of. And, yeah. It’s not Operation Ivy. In fact, it doesn’t even feel like it’s from the same primordial ooze. Shit, I would put it more in the 80s new wave pop scene than I would the raunchier punk stuff of the 80s and 90s. Or anything that might be Jamaican inspired (despite my earlier Clash allusion.) There is a familiarity here, however. Something weirdly wholesome about the simplicity and straight-forward nature of their approach. The earnestness that doesn’t compromise on hooks. But also doesn’t swamp us with dense chords or dense concepts. It’s throw-backy without feeling old. It’s upbeat without feeling glib. At the end of the day, the shit is fun. And good. How this isn’t the biggest band in the world right now, I don’t know. U2 and Taylor Swift can suck it. Now, that’s punk!