By Will Bateman (@WillBateman6611)
After years of touring, building word of mouth support the old-fashioned way, The Spitfires have started to make an impact. The Watford 4-piece have recently come off support slots for Paul Weller and The Specials- both personal invites, both personal idols for the band. Now, with their latest album, Response, comes a reaction to the “musical drought of meaningful music and lyrics”. According to front man and songwriter Billy Sullivan, the album is the sound of “four frustrated lads in the studio with cans of Red Stripe, B&H and lots of ideas”.
Openers ‘Disciples’ and ‘Tell Me’ are a burst of attitude and snarling vocal; a statement of intent from the disenfranchised British youth. It’s brimming with passion, but is this indie/mod-rock influence, or replication? Fortunately, this feeling doesn’t last. The ska-heavy ‘Escape Me’ turns wild with a powerful saxophone solo bringing us to a climactic end. The 7-minute slow-burn ‘Spoke Too Soon’ is the peak of the album, breaking down the traditional song structure with minimal verses, extended instrumentals and bursts of noise before building to a teeming crescendo. It is a demonstration of the Spitfire’s ability and personal touch; not simply their musical dexterity but also their refusal to be pigeon-holed.
They tread this line throughout, avoiding convention with one step and embracing more formulaic indie-rock with the next, using Britain’s social and political issues as lyrical inspiration. The balance suits them, demonstrated by recent single ‘Stand Down’. It’s got all the makings of a great live staple alongside Billy’s defeated and hopeless lyrics – “get a job and fight to keep it/get a degree by you’ll never need it”. They also take their time to let the album breathe in the form of 2 ‘Serenades’. While it’s quite possible that you’ll have had enough after the first of these interludes, they’re nevertheless a welcome change of pace.
The Spitfires may share more similarities with The Enemy or The Rifles than The Jam or The Clash, but they are also aware of the revivalist criticism expected to be projected at them. They do a good job of defusing this by incorporating other genres into their sound. Surprisingly it’s at these points they are at their most appealing. They show promise of growth; the ability and importantly a desire to tread new ground, in a way their more contemporary predecessors struggled with.