Following two releases as Preston School Of Industry, Spiral Stairs (Scott Kannberg to his mum) releases his first album under that particular moniker, but it’s certainly not a solo album in the traditional sense. Indeed, the former Pavement stalwart roped in a motley collection of alt-rock luminaries, including former Preston School of Industry graduates, various members of The Posies (whose John Auer also mixed it) and Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew. Unlike many such all-hands-on-deck collections, however, the result is amongst the most coherent pieces of work Stairs has ever given us, even if it does recall the ragged glory of mid-period Neil Young.
Guitars feature high on the agenda, with each song propelled by chunky power-chords and overlapping licks, with a mournful slide guitar forming the backbone of the superb -Call The Ceasefire’. Perhaps most surprising is Stairs’ voice, which remains high in the mix and sounds more confident than heretofore, from the chug-a-lug chimes of -True Love’ to the swamp blues of -Subiaco Shuffle’, the classic laid-back -70s rock of -‘A Mighty Mighty Fall’ to the ferocious punk bluster of -Stolen Pills’.
Elsewhere, -Maltese T’ takes a -60s-ish melody, adds a countrified middle eight, and brings it bang up to date with all manner of instrumentation, while the obscure lyrics take it firmly into alt. rock territory. -Cold Change’ could be a Pavement out-take, and we can think of few higher compliments. -Wharf-Hand Blues’, on the other hand, plods a bit over its six-minute duration, but it’s the only dud track on what is Stairs’ most consistently enjoyable work since the demise of Pavement.