The cover of SPELLS’ ‘Sedatives & Stimulants’ is captivating and intriguing. I was instantly caught by the beautiful and bright colors of the album cover and flipped it over expecting a track list but, instead, was greeted by a mostly blue cover with a human mouth taking some sort of seed that has these tentacle like roots coming out of it and dancing around the image. It wasn’t until I pulled the liner notes out of this LP that I realized that this is a two side saga, not a two side album. The colorful side that drew me to this album was the ‘Stimulants’ side and the mystical blue side, the ‘Sedatives’ portion of the release. Yeah, the intrigue was real as I put the ‘Stimulants’ side of the album on my turntable.
“We Can’t Relate” kicks things off with a sense of fury that took over my house and my heart. Fast paced and grungey, although it wasn’t the almost psychedelic look of the cover, it was perfect. The opening track moves fast at under two minutes long but sets the stage for what’s to come from this side of the album.
Slamming guitars get “I’ll Never See” started and continue with the very punk-grunge vibe of “We Can’t Relate”. I’m thinking that this entire side of this album will be like this so I promise to stop saying that. This track has a catchy beat to it that instantly had my head bobbing around. I was a bit surprised as the infectious beat stopped for “Nose Dive” which starts with just the sound that a guitar makes when held close to an amp before jumping back into pure adrenaline. The driving force behind “Nose Dive” is clear and, because of it, this track became a favorite of mine. It’s rebellious and hard but still not over the top or chaotic. The words are about The Hi-Dive (which I’m assuming is in reference to The Hi-Dive in Denver being that this group is from Denver) but I love the way that the lyrics can be applied to any venue that you feel completely at home at. To say this track made me miss my homes away from home would be an understatement and I listened to this one a couple of times before moving on to “Reduction In Force”.
“Reduction In Force” which instantly gave me a sound reminiscent of the great punk bands of days gone by like The Casualties. It’s a statement song and, upon reading the lyrics, I realized it’s a statement I can absolutely get behind (yeah, I’m not going to ruin this one for you– just listen to it). “The Matador” has that same old school punk vibe but something about this track is just a bit brighter than “Reduction in Force”. Like the other tracks on this side, “The Matador” is an all around solid track. There’s really not much more that needs to be said.
Closing out the ‘Stimulants’ side of this album is “Down Every Road”. This anthemic track is the perfect track to wrap up this first side of the album. It kind of brings all of the previous tracks around full circle and acts as an exclamation point on a brilliant side before flipping the album over to hear the ‘Sedatives’ side.
So, now that I had a taste of ‘Stimulants’, I thought I had the second side nailed. I figured I would get a more indie rock vibe or an almost ambient sound. For some reason that’s a style that I could hear this band pulling off really well and, in my mind, that would be the ‘Sedatives’ side to this ‘Stimulants’. Welp, I was wrong and as “We’ve Arrived” played, I started to question my definition of ‘Sedatives’.
I will admit, things calm down a wee bit for “We’ve Arrived” but there’s still something very in your face and punk-vibe about this track. It’s a bit more sing-song (hence the ‘Sedatives’ reference) but there’s no lack of energy. I instantly fell even deeper in love with SPELLS as this two and a half minute song played. Although they pull off that grunge-punk sound so well, they also pull off this more accessible and (okay, fine) calmer sound just as well. Having the two sides to this album is brilliant and showcases just how innovative and two-sided this band can be.
“Sick & Tired (Of Being Sick & Tired” was another instant favorite of mine. “Hey I’m Surviving even if I’m not exactly thriving!” If that’s not what we are all feeling right now, I don’t know what is. This was a song that instantly got stuck in my head and, even though it’s under two minutes in length, it left an impression on me and I had to listen a couple of times before moving onto “West Of Syracuse”.
“West Of Syracuse” is a fun and poppy little number that had me dancing around in my chair like a damn idiot. There’s this pop-punk feeling to this track that, as a pop-punk addict, I just could not shake. No, I’m not calling SPELLS a pop-punk band but there are elements in this track that reminded me of some of the tracks that seem to rule my day to day life. That pop-punk vibe is replaced by the garage rock sound that this band does so well as the album moved onto “Break Out”. “Break Out” is one of those tracks that, when listening to, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander into a sweaty punk club with the aroma of spilled beer and sweat taking over my sense of smell. There’s just something so pure and real about this track that I instantly started bartering with the pandemic Gods just so I would get a chance to see SPELLS play this song live.
Closing out the ‘Sedatives’ side and this album as a whole is “I’m Sorry I’m Not Sorry” which ends this entire experience on a high note. Honestly, this album could have ended on any track and it would have been a high note. I feel like “I’m Sorry I’m Not Sorry” is the track that blends the two sides together the most which makes it an easy track to use as a gateway back to the beginning.
I knew nothing about SPELLS when I popped this album onto my turntable and I still feel like I know so little. With over ten releases on their Bandcamp, I have a feeling I’m going to get to know them much better over the upcoming days. What a great band with a great and powerful sound. Show them some love and help me bribe the pandemic Gods so I can get out and see these guys live.
My Favorite Track(s): “Nose Dive”; “Sick & Tired (Of Being Sick & Tired)”
For Fans Of: Garage Rock; Sweaty Punk Clubs
Mosh-ability: 8.2 out of 10
What My Cats Thought Of It: Artie laid on the kitchen table; Autumn laid on the back of the couch
How Badly I Want To See This Performed Live: 9.8 out of 10
My Overall Rating: 8.3 out of 10
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