Spiral Stairs | The Real Feel
Most Likely To: lead to a spike in John Oates and Andrew Ridgeley jokes.
I don’t know whether to feel a little bad for Scott Kannberg or just think he’s a lucky, lucky bastard. There’s no way he imagined that twenty years after he started calling himself Spiral Stairs, palling around with Stephen Malkmus, and hanging out in Gary Young’s basement recording studio that he’d get the call. You know: “Spiral. It’s me, Steve. We’re getting the band back together.” Like the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr., Pavement has agreed to reunite and reap the rewards that flow from their aging fan base who are now all grown up, can afford to pay more than ten bucks a ticket, and are willing, in Pavement’s case, to buy some of the band’s records up to three times (vinyl, CD, deluxe CD reissue).
But Kannberg isn’t just back in the saddle as Malkmus’ second in command. He’s also just released a solo record. It’s his first using the Pavement-era moniker, Spiral Stairs. He released two decent records and an EP as Preston School of Industry, but now just as he decides to trade on his past reputation, as if to say, “Hey, remember me? That other guy from Pavement?” good old Pavement is going to command all of the attention once again.
I’d feel worse for Kannberg if he’d made a better record. The Real Feel brims with pleasant but unsatisfying music. Kannberg’s over-reliance on swirly guitar riffs and lap steel (“True Love,” “Cold Change,” “A Mighty Mighty Fall”) are genial, but empty, so despite numerous listens very few of The Real Feel’s tracks have staying power. Thanks mostly to its hefty guitar line, “Maltese T” is the record’s only keeper. Kannberg sounds a bit like Jarvis Cocker as he half-screams “I don’t use my body when I’m with you,” just as the song diverts into a clean and plunky piano line. He sounds like he means what he says, and even if I’m not sure exactly what he means, I like it.
Kannberg worked with music veterans Jon Auer and Darius Minwalla on The Real Feel, and the result sounds clean and professional, but a little too polished and cold. Guess it is about time for the return of the scratchy, lo-fi, feedback-laden Spiral Stairs. “Painted Soldiers” anyone?
Listen to “Maltese T” from Spiral Stairs: