Click to hear: “Lucky”
Listening to Spencer Albee’s new album, Spencer, I picture him standing, all alone, at home plate in Hadlock Field, tossing softballs to himself and smacking them over the fence, mostly to left-center. Homers, all 10 of ’em (even the Gordon Lightfoot cover), launched with the satisfying pop of aluminum on leather.
It’s definitely impressive, but it’s batting practice. The challenge and spontaneity and unpredictability of a real game are missing, just like they are on this disc.
Spencer sounds much like every other album Albee’s released over the past decade or so in one incarnation or another: bouncy pop rock with big sing-song choruses and a fundamentalist’s devotion to formula. Albee delivers his hooks with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, over and over and always a little harder the third and last time around.
Like its predecessors, Spencer is expertly crafted, but its perfection is also its trap. There’s precious little air in these tight compositions. Solos are scarce, and when Albee does let one out, it’s kept on a short leash. (The extended sax solo at the end of “Lucky” is an exception, and sounds thrilling for that reason.)
Lyrically, Albee stays crouched behind a screen of clichés and word play, treading dangerously close at times to Barenaked Ladies territory. Genuine emotion is as rare as surprise on Spencer.
Albee turned to crowd-sourcing to fund this record, and I’m sure his crowd is eating it up. But this listener wishes he’d stop making essentially the same album every couple years. It’s time to destroy the Plastique Man once and for all. The sequels are getting tired.
— Chris Busby