The Clash, The Hives, and Rancid all come to mind as soon as you press play on the debut album from Spiritual Cramp. The record features a toe-tapping rhythm section, strutting guitars, and vocals full of punk rock swagger.
The self-titled record exudes all the gleam you’d expect from a Californian rock album, all while maintaining a punk rock bite of realism. Not blinded by the Californian sunshine, Spiritual Cramp battle topics of police brutality and substance abuse as well as more flippant topics such as online squabbles. Even with its pep-in-your-step stylings, the San Francisco sextet manage to peal away at their own exuberance, becoming measured and introspective when needed.
Opening with barnstormer “Blowback,” Spiritual Cramp announce themselves with intent. Vocalist Michael Bingham leading the way. His vocals ooze with his unique personality, as he delivers fast paced hooks and infectious sloganeering, repeatedly wailing the question “I wanna know whose side you’re on?”. It’s sloganeering like this that drew people into Spiritual Cramps work in the first place. It’s sloganeering like this that can be found throughout this record. Tracks like “Talkin On The Internet” and “Better Off This Way” leave one line earworms rattling round your head for days.
Behind Bingham’s striding, brazen vocals is a musical arrangement that pulls flavors from all corners of music. Garage rock, reggae, post punk, punk, hardcore to name a few. From the skank inducing of “City On Fire,” the brash rager “Can I Borrow Your Lighter” to the anthemic “Slick Rick,” Spiritual Cramp combine their influences to what can best be described as unadulterated, honest, blue collar rock ‘n’ roll. As they flow effortlessly through hit after hit they mellow their punk tendency to more pensive efforts. “Herberts On Holiday” and “Catch A Hot One” bring the pace down whilst still maintaining the veracious approach that makes the band so appealing.
Coupling this unfiltered rock ‘n’ roll style with Bingham’s unflinching vocals creates a record that on the surface radiates a youthful sense of invincibility, yet upon further investigation and deeper listening, delves into topics behind the initial confident rock ‘n’ roll. When it all comes together, it produces one of the best records of the year.
In less than half an hour, Spiritual Camp have captured themselves perfectly, wearing the influence of their peers and their city on their sleeve. The self-titled debut is sure to whet the appetite of anyone who is a fan of the recent post-punk/garage rock revival we’ve seen of late and is a record that deserves the ears of the world.
Buy the album here from Blue Grape Records.