Click to hear: “Coaster”
As Music Director for Portland’s community radio station, WMPG-FM, I’ve seen the name Spouse pop up on the ‘MPG Top 30 charts many times over the years, as well as on the College Music Journal (CMJ) Top 200 album chart, for 2003’sLove Can’t Save This Love. The band performed at the station’s Begathon Ball in 2004, but, strangely enough, my knowledge of these local alt-rock heroes was quite limited until recently. Once I really got to know Spouse, I wanted to know – and hear –much more.
Spouse return to the airwaves for the first time in three years on April 10 with their highly anticipated fourth full-length release, Relocation Tactics. The album reunites Spouse frontman José Ayerve with many of the folks who’ve made up the Spouse collective since its inception in 1997, including drummer Michael Merenda, bassist/guitarist Dan Pollard, and keyboardist/guitarist Naomi Hamby.
For this record, Ayerve has also recruited the vocal talents of guests Erin McKeown and Marykate O’Neil, and guitarist Peyton Pinkerton. Quirky folk artist McKeown and rocker O’Neil have more than a half-dozen critically acclaimed albums between them, and Pinkerton has been involved with the likes of the equally popular Pernice Brothers (with whom Ayerve switched from merch to bass duties on a recent tour) and New Radiant Storm King.
Ayerve, who’s often shuttling between Portland and Northampton, Mass., saysRelocation Tactics “thematically tries to address and communicate the concepts of stasis, change, idleness and excitement.” That may very well be true, but simply put, I’d like to think of this 47-minute album as “alt-pop perfection.”
Ayerve doesn’t waste any time getting things started with the opener, “Coaster”: “I held on to the note you wrote down / On the back of the coaster from the bar / When I walked in as you walked up / Intending to take me over.” Within seconds, you feel like “Coaster” intends to take you over. The song instantly grabs hold of you, and after a quick two-and-a-half minutes, it’s had its way with you, too. I can’t wait to play this one live at the club.
Other exemplary tracks include “It=Love” (which could be mistaken for an updated version of Haircut 100’s equally cool “Love Plus One”), “Spouse Visits The World Bank” and “Thunder Royale” (both very U2-ish), and the lovely, albeit brief, “There Goes The Road” (featuring McKeown). Winterpills members Philip Price and Flora Reed also make appearances (the ever-working Ayerve co-produced and played on the Northampton pop band’s latest, The Light Divides.)
Relocation Tactics is packed with 15 songs that hold their own among anything on rock-oriented radio. This brilliant album has relocated into the spot reserved for my favorite record of the year.
— Ron Raymond Jr.
Spouse plays a CD release party on Fri., April 13, at Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland, at 9 p.m. Bullyclub and Hiss & Chambers open (Cult Maze appearance canceled). Tix: $7 (18+). 828-5600. space538.org. For more on Spouse, see spousemusic.com.