Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Album Review: Spanish Prisoners- Gold Fools

Album Rating: B+
You always know what you want to be but you never are actually willing to become that person. The person who wants to have Spartan Abs for the New Year only goes to the gym for one day, the person who wants to recommit themselves to a religion gives up after one bad day, the Dad who is trying to become a better father gives up after he realizes that alcohol still exists, and the kid that says he is going to get better grades gives up after he realizes how hard it is to be a good student. You want to Brad Pitt until you realize being Brad Pitt requires taking the stairs, you might want to be Billy Graham until you realize that being Billy Graham requires trading your scarlet letters in for red letters, you might want to be a boy genius until you realize that you have to open a textbook, and you might want to be Bill Cosby until you realize that you have an absolutely awful Bill Cosby impression. We will always strive to be someone new but it is rare that we actually change into a new person because changing oneself requires work. Change is always on paper or up to perception instead of being seen in the eyes of other people.

In a weird way I think artist are the same way about their music. The band that says they are going to release an album that is like a better version of their best album from ten years ago is probably going to release a mediocre version of their last album, the band that says they want to make an album that sounds like an arena rock version of their best album ends up releasing Anarchy, My Dear, the band that says they are going to complete change their sound ends up sounding exactly the same, and the band that says they are "aiming for the stars" often times ends up laying on the ground. I have always thought that bands want to accomplish these things but they get distracted. The band who cannot make the epic double album settling for something less is just like the person who only workouts three days a month, the band who cannot make the arena rock album settling for something less is like the kid who settles for mediocre grades into of working hard and making the Honor Roll, the band who says they are going to completely change their sound staying the same is just like the deadbeat Dad, and the band that says they are "aiming for the stars" getting the grass is kind of like the guy giving up his faith in the earlier example. In music we also see the difference between striving and changing and the difference between wanting to feel accomplished and actually accomplishing something.

This is why when a person or a band turns this desire into actual results we find ourselves in a state of elated shock. We are surprised and happy that Jim lost sixty pounds, we are surprised and happy that Bill became a better father, we are surprised and happy that Candice became a better Monist, we are surprised and happy that Little Jimmy made better grades, and we are surprised and happy when Blair actually writes a short introduction that makes sense. This elated shock also applies to music: when the band releases an awesome double album we are happy and surprised, when the band releases an album that sounds like their classic album from ten years ago we bang our head and pump our fists, and when a band changes their sound completely we awkwardly chest bump all of our nerdy friends. As decent people, we are generally happy when a person or a group of people works hard and accomplishes one of their lofty goals. Actually I think accomplishing life goals or turning into someone else is easier than accomplishing musical goals. There is no treadmill or Bible to help you create the album you have always wanted to create. You have to have an album that realizes all of your influences, an album that has great lyrics, an album that has magnificent instrumentation, and an album that has a lot of good songs. Making the album of your dreams is harder than dreaming of losing a few pounds. What makes the Spanish Prisoners Gold Fools so impressive is that by realizing their influences, writing great lyrics, having great instrumentation, and making tons of good songs Spanish Prisoners created an album that probably exceeded whatever lofty expectations they had for the album.

The first thing that makes the album memorable is that the Spanish Prisoners not only realize their influences but are also to use these influences in just about every song. The Spanish Prisoners probably wanted to created an album that had the atmospheric and moody instrumentation of Deerhunter and Sigur Ros, an album that had the "America In The 1980's" feel of Destroyer's Kaputt, the album that had lyrics that just about anyone could relate to and question at the same time, and an album that had the vocal stylings of Peter Bjorn and John. So instead of settling and not using any of these influences, Spanish Prisoners created an album where every song sounded like an awesome combination of Deerhunter, Sigur Ros, Destroyer, and Peter Bjorn and John. The album is atmospheric yet witty, the album makes you feel like you are on drugs yet has lyrics and moments that are so sobering, the album flows together without feeling forced, and the album is apathetic yet aggressive in nature. The impressive thing about Gold Fools though is that the band where able to use these influences in just about every song: "Los Angeles Guitar Dream" sounds like an combination of "Nothing To Worry About," "Little Kids," "Chinatown," and "Festival," "Know No Violence" sounds like a softer version of "Young Folks," has the feel of "Song For America," and has lyrics that remind me of "Nothing Ever Happened," "Cadillac From Yesterday" reminds me of a combination of "Kaputt," "Objects of My Affection," "Agorphobia," and "All Allright," and finally "Slow Decay" sounds like a combination of "Poor In Love," "Staummes," "Second Chance," and "Twlight At Carbon Lake." Spanish Prisoners create their "dream album" by combining the feel of Kaputt, the instrumentation of Sigur Ros and Deerhunter, and the vocal and lyric stylings of Peter Bjorn and John on just about every track.

Spanish Prisoners also accomplish their goal by writing great lyrics. The lyrics are a great combination of the wit of Peter Bjorn and John, the social commentary of Deerhunter, the simplicity of Foster The People, and the symbolism of Fleet Foxes in just about every song. "Know No Violence" lyrically could easily be confused for a pacifistic hipster version of "Imagine" and "All You Need Is Love," the lyrics of "Slow Decay" remind me of something on the latter half of Torches, the lyrics on "Los Angeles Guitar Dream" sound like something you would hear from Peter Bjorn and John, Animal Collective, or Deerhunter, "Cadillac From Yesterday" is like a distorted electronica version of a Bruce Springsteen song and it has the old school symbolism of a Fleet Foxes song, and "Lipstick Under The Table" seems to combine all of these influences perfectly. The album is not a lyrical masterpiece but that is because the band did not want to make it a lyrical masterpiece. Even though the lyrics are of the highest quality they still match the albums sound perfectly, even though the album only has one chorus that really stands out just about every song has one memorable verse, and even though the band has a lot of lyrical influences they are still able to forge their own "lyrical style" throughout the album. The songwriting on the album is another reason why Spanish Prisoners were able to make their dream album with Gold Fools.

Another thing that helps the Spanish Prisoners make a great album is the albums instrumentation, flow, and quality of song in general. All of these songs have at least one "instrumental moment" and all of the songs flow together perfectly: the one minute distorted guitar riff of "Los Angeles Guitar Dream" is a perfect opening for the album and the songs wavy last seconds somehow flow into the disco like opening moments of "Rich Blood," the smooth disco feel of "Rich Blood" gives you a strange exhilaration and the silence of the last seconds of "Rich Blood" flow nicely into the subdued riff of "Know No Violence," and the build up of "Know No Violence is memorable and the song also flows perfectly. The album goes on like this and even though the songs sound completely different they all have great instrumental moments and they all flow together beautifully. The album also has lots of great songs: "Know No Violence" is a great "distorted ballad," "Slow Decay" is a great song about a depressing subject manner, the chant chorus of "November Third" makes the song itself insanely good, "Los Angeles Guitar Dream" has the best instrumentation of any song on the album, and "Downtown Chicagoland" is the perfect "last song." The albums great instrumentation, flow, and songs help the Spanish Prisoners.

You may never be able to be the person that you are supposed to be. You may not ever be Brad Pitt, Bill Cosby, Warren Buffett, Billy Graham, or the smartest kid in your class. You may just have to settle with being "morbidly obese Joe who wants a six pack" or "Marie with the drinking problem." But the great thing is that you can still find some happiness and fulfillment from watching other people accomplish their crazy goals. You can still be happy watching other people get fit, other people find God, other people make good grades, and other bands create their "ultimate album." What makes Gold Fools so great is that it is not only a solid album but an album that makes you feel fulfilled. It is a band realizing their influences and becoming a beautiful combination of the bands that influenced them. Most albums leave me feeling bitter, angry, sad, depressed, or nostalgic. This album is one of the few albums that leaves me in a joyful state of fulfillment because I know that this is a band that worked hard enough to acheive their dreams. And watching people accomplish the impossible is always something that should make you feel happy and fulfilled in a very strange way.

1. Los Angeles Guitar Dream
2. Rich Blood
3. Know No Violence
4. November Third
5. Slow Decay
6. Lipstick Under The Table
7. That's When I Froze
8. Cadillac From Yesterday
9. Downtown Chicagoland


  1. This review was so good/spot-on that I'm devoting the next few hours to reading your site, hoping I discover another gem like this album.

  2. Mark, you have actually completed my life. You're the best.