Spare Snare – Unicorn (Chute)
Even though they’re into their third decade as a band, a new record from Spare Snare is always welcome.
‘Unicorn’, their 11th album (depending on how you’re counting – it may be more), seems to be the culmination of a renewed enthusiasm which has been building over the last couple of years following on from the short but well received 20th anniversary tour to mark the release of debut ‘Live At Home’.
Still, a new Snare album remains something a rarity – it’s only their second full length since 2010’s ‘Victor’ and their first in four years.
The record’s predecessor was the brooding ‘Our Jazz’, which seemed, at the time, a suitable mirror for desperate times. Yet somehow ‘Unicorn’ emerges into what seems to be a new dark age which makes 2013 seem like salad days in comparison.
Continuing in the vein of ‘Our Jazz’ was clearly not an option – the band would surely have risked disappearing into a void from which there would be no escape. So the Snare instead have stepped back from the precipice and improbably even managed to inject some light into the darkness.
Single ‘Not as Smart as You’ is the best evidence of this. It boasts a jaunty keyboard hook that might have ended up as a brass section on another band’s record and is the album’s outstanding pop moment.
Opener ‘Hope You Never Go’ is another of the record’s highlights – a taut, defiant opener and an exhilarating mix of electronics and taut, propulsive guitars.
The title of ‘The Disease’ suggests another trip into the darkness but it’s one of the more up-tempo songs, driven along by grungey guitars and feedback before dissolving in a flurry of sampled vocals. Meanwhile ‘Eyelash’ is a forlorn ballad, with a melancholic bass and a world weary vocal.
Yet, it’s fair to say that the Snare can’t completely shake off these disquieting times and there remains a seeping sense of foreboding in some of the pieces.
Instrumental ‘Soft Rain’ distils an almost Lynchian anxiety into its 135 seconds whilst ‘You’re Not Home’ may start out hopefully but manages to capture the sense of screaming into the void that sums up living in 2017.
Given that the record was recorded last year, closing track ‘The Nuclear Night’ is uncomfortably prescient as the Snare play out the album by backing a narration on the cons of nuclear war.
There’s not much here that’s an easy listen but nevertheless it’s a record to be treasured.
‘Unicorn’ is available now from Chute Records and selected independent record shops.
Previously on MPT – Spare Snare interview (April 2017) by Andy Wood.