Spring King – ‘A Better Life’

By Gareth O'Malley

When it came to writing the follow up to their debut album, Spring King knew things had to change. ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ was primarily the work of front man and drummer Tarek Musa, but the band had learned from their experiences at raucous live sets and were far more collaborative in the flesh than their studio output up to that point had let on. The Manchester band were allowed to take their time with that record, fanning the flames through word of mouth and sought-after EPs, and four years had elapsed since their formation by the time it was released.

That’s an eternity by today’s standards, but the four-piece – Musa, Pete Darlington, Andy Morton and James Green – have clearly made some strides in the meantime. That album’s songs sounded utterly transformed in a live setting, and the band drew on that enthusiasm and intensity to create ‘A Better Life’, which stands in stark contrast to their debut; expanding on its vigorous garage-pop sound to create something darker, meatier and much heavier on all fronts. Blazing into life with the raucous ‘Animal’ after a brief, scene-setting intro, the record’s mood is different to what some might have expected, but the energy is still there in spades.

A scan of the track listing should give you a good idea of where Spring King’s heads are at: ‘Ready For War’, ’Paranoid’, ’Us Vs Them’. There’s plenty of social commentary on offerthe driving force behind a good deal of the record’s lyrical content is the unrest fostered by the Brexit fallout and wider geopolitical turmoil—but Musa and his cohorts are much more interested in personal trials and tribulations, and those two perspectives complement each other effortlessly.

The 14 track collection is certainly ambitious, with straightforward rock songs largely jettisoned in favour of a broader musical palette; the glam-pop stomp of ‘Radioactive!’ is delightfully audacious, while ‘Let’s Drink’ raises a glass to introverts everywhere (“I wanna dance on my own tonight / I wanna drink on my own tonight / Just wanna be alone in life”) with possibly the best chorus the band have penned to date – it’s a big-hearted pop song they wouldn’t have attempted a few years previously.

Emboldened by the slow-burn success of their debut, there are no half measures taken on a record that makes a mockery of the ‘difficult second album’ trope. While its exploration of the less savoury aspects of existence may lead some to think of its title as ironic, the searing honesty is tempered by the genuine desire to improve things; or, as the psychedelic highlight ‘Have You Ever Looked Up Into the Sky?’ puts it, “Let the light in / I’ve got a feeling we’re gonna see in the dark.”

A Better Life’ is a tightly-wound 45-minute document of those who strive for better in a society that’s in dire need of hope. The quartet are no quitters and they’re ready to fight for change – will you join them?

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