Divine Fits is a Voltron of indie and punk rock. Take Spoon singer Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade guitarist Dan Boeckner and New Bomb Turks (yes, the 90s punk band) drummer Sam Brown, throw them in a recording studio, and the result is far better than any other so-called supergroup I’ve ever heard.
The debut album, “A Thing Called Divine Fits,” is streaming on NPR until Aug. 19 here. It’s due to be released Aug. 28. They’re also playing the Treasure Island Festival in San Francisco this year with The XX, Best Coast, Joanna Newsom, Los Campesinos! and a host of others.
There are no egos in the music here, nothing that doesn’t add to the songs. It feels like, well, it feels like a combination of Spoon, New Bomb Turks and Wolf Parade, actually. Maybe a little less New Bomb Turks, but it’s there. The energy and not-giving-a-fuck-ness feels like punk, but the music isn’t super fast, there are more than four chords per song, and the instrumentation and recording are both decidedly grown up.
Vintage synthesizers fill transitions and spaces between lyrical stanzas. The music isn’t afraid to take chances, to stick its neck out and let songs develop without having to worry about “the hook.” It’s got that great Spoon groove that I love, but doesn’t get boring like Spoon sometimes feels to me. I could listen to this record four more times today, and I’ve already heard it more than once.
The recording is great, and that helps. It’s always tough to get into a new band when they release something recorded in their buddy’s basement in Portland on a “sweet ProTools rig” or something like that. The great thing about a supergroup is their connections and the buzz they have built leads to releasing something that, at the very least, will be a high-quality recording.
The songs are solid, the band sounds like it’s been playing together for quite a while now, so is moniker “supergroup” really appropriate here? There are good ones, like the Highwaymen (Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson), the Postal Service (Ben Gibbard, Jimmy Tamborello, Jenny Lewis) and the Foo Fighters (Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel, many others). But for the most part, supergroups, once realized, are a terrible idea. Here’s a few off the top of my head: Slash’s Snakepit, Audioslave, Zwan, Velvet Revolver, Angels and Airwaves, Chickenfoot, PLASTIC FREAKING ONO BAND.
It doesn’t usually work out. But this doesn’t suck. In fact, if this became a real band, and not just a Postal Service, We’re-Gonna-Make-One-Album-And-Never-Again kind of thing, I would be most pleased.
While researching my Bohemian article on the independent music industry phenomenon of including free mp3 download coupons inside of vinyl LPs, I had the pleasure of talking to a number of labels whose records I’ve listened to and loved for half my life. Vinyl comes and goes pretty quickly these days, and there’s a lot of records that everyone owned at one point but somehow sold, lost, or loaned out for good. So it was exciting to find out during my interview that Merge Records will soon be introducing a “Merge Classic Reissues” series, revisiting out-of-print or previously-unavailable-on-vinyl titles and repressing them on LP. Matador did this with the first three Pavement records recently, and it’s fucking awesome that Merge is starting it too.
The first three titles to be reissued: A Series of Sneaks and Girls Can Tell by Spoon, and The Charm of the Highway Strip by Magnetic Fields, all elegantly pressed on 180-gram vinyl. Here’s hoping they press 69 Love Songs and Red Devil Dawn, which have criminally never been on vinyl, and No Pocky For Kitty, which is just a damn great record, in the near future.
Also, Jon Collins over at Dropcards was telling me about all the various projects they’ve worked on, including a Hannah Montana card for Disney and a huge promotion for Vitamin Water. I asked him what the weirdest project they’ve done, and he told me about a Southern baptist preacher who ordered an mp3 of his sermon on a bunch of Dropcards so he could hand them out to his congregation. Crazy.
Collins also used to work at an independent record distributor in Philadelphia, and I think it’s pretty cool that a guy who now does business with Kelly Clarkson, Red Bull and SnoCap has a record collection that looks like this.