You love Spearmint.
I doubt you were hip enough to have paid attention to “Songs for the Colour Yellow” back in 1998 but in the post-Britpop fug of 1999 you would definitely have been roused from the musical coma of your life by the sun-kissed, sun blessed, sun bleached gorgeousness of “We’re Going Out” which sounded like a dance record being made by sixties enthusiasts or, at times, like Arab Strap without the bleak misanthropy. It was the best song of that year and was probably the inspiration for that line in “500 Days of Summer” when Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character says; “I don’t want to live in a world where no-one’s heard of Spearmint”.
Since 1999 and “A Week Away” the band have released another eight albums, each of them filled with the sort of musical delights and wonders that make you glad that you live in a world where at least one person has heard of Spearmint.
Now, three years since their last album, Spearmint return with what could well be their finest work yet.
“Somebody” says singer Shirley Lee “compared us to those soldiers who were still in the forest years later, because they didn’t realise the war was over. I get that, but for us there never was an army, let alone a war…we were never part of a movement, or part of a scene, we’ve been on our own all the way…and we still are. It sometimes makes it hard financially but it’s worth it. We’ve been happily ignored most of the time, but it’s allowed to just get on with it.”
That’s why you love Spearmint.
Because, just like you, they are special and they know that it’s enough that the only person who knows is…you.
“Are You From the Future?” starts with the lush, soaring, shimmering, swoon of “24 Hours in A&E” which is the sound of the future and the present being filtered through some imaginary past. It sounds like The Style Council…which, if you don’t own a bucket hat and a hideous collection of shirts that look like seventies wallpaper, is the high point of Paul Weller’s career, the moment when he understood that Mod really did require some attempt at being modern. It sounds, and this is a big claim, unique despite reminding you of other things.
“I’m sick of hate being put in front of me” sings Lee on “Pick the Paper Up” where he rails, with no little charm and more than a hint of grace, against the awfulness of contemporary culture and the ugliness of the media while encouraging us to keep hope in our hearts. It’s a moving, witty, honest and political song that swirls around your heart the way that only the very best songs do. Like a late night on Maudlin Street it tugs at your heart strings and makes you yearn for happier times that, probably, never existed.
“I Don’t Sleep Well Without You” is another moment of melancholic majesty that has you wiping tears of joy from your eyes. “If the cost of love is independence” croons Lee “I’ll pay the price”. This is what Morrissey would sound like if he was half as good as he thinks he is and if he had a heart. This is the great tragedy of the Spearmint tale…they really are better than you know and they are certainly better than so many bands you have wasted years and years of your life on. Where some of those bands give you an occasional rush by aping something by a better band or by stumbling onto a catchy riff in the studio Spearmint craft and create moments of wonder, delight and joy on every song and leave you gasping.
The album closes with “It Won’t Happen To Me” which is the sound of the Pet Shop Boys dragging themselves across a crowded dance floor sometime in 1985…or something. A spoken word piece, a modern-retro club classic, the indier than thou delights of Sarah Records remixed by Dave Haslam. It’s the sort of thing that you won’t hear on a record by anyone other than Spearmint.
I think it’s time to put that right.