Spygenius Blow Their Covers: I Don't Hear a Single Review
Normally, I make a quick exit when I hear the words cover album, but remember this is Spygenius and nothing is ever "the normal" with the Canterbury gang. So you are not gonna get a cliched selection of songs. When I first heard of the plan to release this, I thought wow that is gonna be one hell of a Psych Pop treat.
Then when I thought about it, I thought no, the band's influences are much wider than that and if anything they are a band much closer to Robyn Hitchcock and even more so, The Soft Boys. So yes, there is a Soft Boys cover. It is Queen Of The Eyes and it is so fab that it is the lead single.
However, this is no Indie Psych Pop joyride, the song selection and the variety in Spygenius don't allow it to be. Squeeze's Is That Love, one of my own favourite songs, gets a fairly faithful rendition, although with a slight Toybox twinge. Top Marks too for an inspired cover of Big Stir label mates, Plasticsoul's Therapy, Pop Rocking up a complete mood change to the song.
They also make Rock n Roll Women their own and yes there is a (Lennon And) McCartney song, but it was written for Cilla and is an unexpected inspired choice. Add in covers of The Monkees, Gene Clark and Traffic and you'll note the variation.
But this isn't where it ends. You would always expect Spygenius to throw in something out of kilter and they do it thrice here. Murrumbridge Whalers is a sea shanty, recorded before it became hip, Griselda is wonderfully wacky and weird.
But the top award goes to a barmy version of Madness's Michael Caine, it is awesome. Having said that, it is wonderful to hear Kelly's Heels' Please Stop Talking. It is absolutely mastered here and a song I haven't played for so long. The harmonies of all four band members make these songs even more terrific too. You can call this a cover album, but I think it stands up on its own two feet.
6 January 2022
I Don't Hear A Single
Blow Their Covers Review by Maximum Volume Music
Spygenius are a four piece pop-combo based in Canterbury and South London comprising Peter Watts (vocals / guitar), Ruth Rogers (bass) Matt Byrne (keys) and Alan Cannings (drums). Their website states that they create catchy pop songs, with lyrical wit (with many a twist!) and elaborate harmonies to boot. What’s not to like!? After listening to `Blow Their Covers` the band`s album of cover tracks released last month, I'm inclined to agree.
Spygenius have been tagged as premiere purveyors of pop-psych and postpunk madness and on the strength of this release, it would be hard to dispute.
Take a listen and decide for yourself.
29 December 2021
Damian Sullivan: Maximum Volume Music
Blow Their Covers: Louder Than War Review
Canterbury’s own Spygenius return with a new fourteen song cover versions set drawn from the band’s favourite tunes across the years. On the way through Blow Their Covers they dip into the songbooks of The Beatles, Squeeze and Monkees, along with delves into lesser-known acts’ lockers. Ian Canty pulls up the collar of his mac and goes deep undercover…
After releasing the fabulous Man On The Sea album (reviewed here) just over a year ago, Canterbury’s neo-psych popsters Spygenius are back with their own unique take on some well-known and obscure tunes entitled Blow Their Covers. The four piece of singer/guitarist Peter Watts, a rhythm section of Alan Cannings and Ruth Rogers and keyboardist Matt Byrne work through fourteen examples of other writers’ works with the same panache that was lucidly apparent on their previous long player. Unsurprisingly, given the band’s firm pop sike leanings, they tap a fair bit into the swinging 1960s for the base material on this record.
3 December 2021
Ian Canty: Louder than War
Spygenius Blow Their Covers: Here Comes the Flood Review
The members of English pop quartet Spygenius decided to pay tribute to the music they grew up with on their new album Spygenius Blow Their Covers. It's not a stop gap release while they contemplate their next move after the superb Man On The Sea (HCTF's album of the year in 2020), but more like a dive into the rabbit hole and resurfacing with a wealth of unexpected gems, like the sea-shanty Murrumbidgee Whalers and Griselda by American folkies Michael Hurley and The Unholy Modal Rounders.
By kicking off with the Traffic / Monkees medley Paper Sun / Love Is Only Sleeping it is crystal clear that is no ordinary set of reimagined songs. Coupling a hallowed debut single with prefabricated pop that was snubbed by the connoisseurs back in the day is a bold move and to rub it in they included another Monkees cover, For Pete's Sake. Spygenius are first and foremost a band that is focused on the melody with a touch of melancholy, so it makes sense that they tackled Is That Love by New Wave band Squeeze and Michael Caine by ska maestros Madness.
Spygenius Blow Their Covers is a labour of love, a tribute to the sound of more innocent times. Nostalgia is a means of escapism, but it also a means to deal with the current shit state of the world. Not a cure or a solution, but it will make the listener feel better for sure.
22 November 2021
Hans Werksman: Here Comes The Flood
Spygenius Blow Their Covers
The true value of a covers album is how well it reflects music that speaks directly to the artist, and inspires them to make music of their own. Because Spygenius approached this project fully on their own terms, it stands head and shoulders above the customary “covers” fare.
"Covers Albums” usually come from one of two extremes. In the first scenario, an artist will gather up a collection of extremely familiar corporate radio “classic rock” songs, ones the mainstream audiences will know like the back of their hands. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the artist goes for a collection of tracks that are so esoteric and obscure that only a small handful of people will know anything about the originals. Then there’s the third category, where the artist perfectly blends the “known” with the somewhat “lesser known,” so that the songs are not what’s been played endlessly on commercial radio, but also have a connection to a larger mainstream audience. Anyone expecting Spygenius, a band that produced one of the most adventurous and rewarding albums in recent memory (Man On The Sea) to “do a covers album” from one of the two extremes listed above hasn’t been paying attention. These are covers that influenced and entertained the band, but the track selection was done on their own terms, with the same sense of adventure that they devote to their original productions.
5 November 2021
Mike De Angelis
A Little More Vodka, A Little Less Milk - Man On The Sea Review
Spygenius are,… well…, genius!…, at least as far as song-craft is concerned. Their latest long-player Man On The Sea, out now on Big Stir Records, is absolutely one of the best long-players I’ve heard this year. Enter Café Emery Hill (seen / heard here). The playful animation in this video is a perfect match to the lyrics, melody and spot-on harmonies. It’s just a hint at what awaits you as just one of 17 tracks on Man On The Sea. As the title of the long-player suggests, nearly every track here has a nautical reference of some kind, but don’t expect them to all sound the same, because they don’t, and they shouldn’t. That would be boring! Nope, there is plenty of tempo and stylistic changes to go along with the up-tempo numbers, which tend towards the more 80′s-rock-meets-modern-indie-pop vein.
With one exception, Man On The Sea’s songwriting is handled by Peter Watts (lead guitar), who explains that every Spygenius long-player contains older and newer songs, often picked to match an overarching theme. While Watts leads the show here, there is no denying the influence of the other band members. These include Ruth Rogers (bass / vocals), who penned and sings Spite, the only song on the long-player not written by Watts, Matt Byrne (keyboards / vocals), and Alan Cannings (drums / vocals). From the four comes a magnificent, massive sound, full of instrumental interplay and tight harmonies.
It would be a daunting and a near impossible task, to take on describing or reviewing each of the 17 tracks, here. The sheer volume alone of the 73 plus minutes of music is a lot to take in. That said, if you’re thinking that the band has created a double-length LP with a bunch of filler, you would be wrong! Each track is a masterpiece on its own.
11 August 2020
A Little More Vodka, A Little Less Milk
Baby Sue - Man On The Sea Review
The fifth full-length release from Canterbury, England's Spygenius. Way back in the 1980s jangly guitar pop bands seemed to dominate the undercurrents of pop music. If you were in a band and you were good at playing slick jangly pop, there was a very good chance you would immediately be signed by a record label and be well on your way to becoming a favorite on the college radio circuit. Genres come and go, of course. And now in 2020 it's rare that we hear a band playing this style of music. As such, the folks in Spygenius immediately create their own niche by playing a style of music that most folks no longer play. The good news is that the band's music is not so much retrospective as it is a new way of revisiting the past. Man on the Sea presents seventeen tracks that would have been topping the college charts in the 1980s. By injecting their pop songs with their own unique perspective, these musicians effectively manage to combine the past with the present...presenting smart twenty-first century pop music that can be appreciated by music fans of all ages. The band is comprised of Peter Watts (vocals, guitar, chief songwriter), Ruth Rogers (bass, vocals), Matt Byrne (keyboards, vocals), and Alan Cannings (drums, vocals). Man on the Sea has been simultaneously released as a double vinyl LP, a CD, and a digital download and stream. These tracks are pure pop all the way, so if you're looking for abrasive noise or something ultra weird you won't find it here. These folks seem to enjoy presenting upbeat pop that is instantly hummable and uplifting. The more poppy they get, the more we like it. And they manage to get away with all kinds of things other bands could not (background vocals going 'ooooo-oooo' and 'la la la la', etc.). If you enjoy artists like Robyn Hitchcock and Anton Barbeau, there's a very good chance this album may be your next favorite spin. The CD is housed inside a beautifully designed foldout cardboard sleeve featuring killer artwork by Joseph Champniss and comes complete with a foldout poster of O'Leary's Map of True Blue Albion and Surrounding Waters (yow!). It's no wonder this band's fan base seems to be quickly expanding exponentially. Exceedingly well-conceived and highly entertaining stuff.
9 August 2020
New York Music Daily - Man On The Sea Review
Sharply Lyrical, Smart Purist Rock Eclecticism From Spygenius. UK-based band Spygenius play densely lyrical, erudite rock that draws on sixty years of classic tunesmithing. Their new double gatefold vinyl album Man on the Sea is as ambitious as it is vast. Their ability to channel an amazing number of styles is breathtaking. New wave? Check. The Beatles? Doublecheck. 80s pop, 70s art-rock? Check and doublecheck. Clever puns and cynical humor notwithstanding, frontman/guitarist Peter Watts’ songs occasionally take themselves a bit too seriously. But when this band connect, they really hit it out of the park (gratuitous American baseball reference in a review of an English band, WTF?), and they do that a lot here.
The opening track, Another True Story is Rubber Soul Beatles as Squeeze might have done it, with a twelve-string guitar: Oxford group Dada Paradox come to mind. Likewise, Albion, a snide dismissal of icy British conformity, is a McCartneyesque ballad with hints of the tropics and an unexpected snarl as it goes on. Propelled by Ruth Rogers’ bubbly, dancing bass and Alan Cannings’ tightly clustering drums, If You Go A-Roving looks back to the chimepop of 80s bands like Happy Mondays, with a Celtic tinge: keyboardist Matt Byrne’s trebly carnival organ is a deft touch. They keep the jangle and clang going throughout Salaud Days, a sendup of hypocrites. The title is a pun: “salaud” is French for “bastard,” Watts using the word in the Sartrean sense of an individual who refuses or neglects to exercise his free choice. Side one concludes with Tomorrowland, a very clever critique of wide-eyed, futuristic techie fantasies, Byrne’s piano leaping and bounding uneasily. Side two begins with the Kinks-ish Café Emery Hill, followed by the sobering Dolphinarium 1986, a moody Celtic folk-rock reflection on how nostalgia is the enemy of history. New Street is a snarky mashup of organ-driven 60s psychedelia and mid-80s REM. The album’s high point is the metaphorically loaded seafaring ballad Man Overboard: this grimly detailed account of a mutiny wouldn’t be out of place in the Charming Disaster catalog if that band played eight-minute songs. Green Eyed Monster opens side three amid wild sheets of noise and then an anthemic, minor-key sway like the Church circa 1985 or so. From there the group segue into In a Garden, Byrne’s phantasmagorically twinkling piano elevating it above REM ripoff level. “She can’t help being stupider than you,” Watts rails in the scampering, organ-fueled Don’t Blame It on Your Mother, a dis to somebody who’ll do anything to avoid facing up to responsibility – a recurrent theme here. Midnight Bandola comes across as an Irish take on the Grateful Dead circa American Beauty. Rogers sings Spite, its bright Manchester pop sheen masking her hilariously venomous portrait of a pompous twit. Watch Your Back rises slowly from unresolved Robyn Hitchcock jangle to a big payoff. Windy (an original, not the 60s pop hit) has its airy late Beatles ambience: it could be late-period Love Camp 7 with a keyboard. Back in the radio-and-records age, this band would have been huge.
31 July 2020
Delarue - New York Music Daily
Shindig Man on the Sea Review
Carving a bespoke niche for themselves as purveyors of brainy guitar-pop – the kind once championed by much missed labels such as Not Lame and Rainbow Quartz – Californian imprint Big Stir this time turns its gaze across the Atlantic to Kentish quartet Spygenius, whose fifth album – conceptual, and a double, but not in any way “sprawling” as such things are often tagged – hangs on the songs of driving force Peter Watts.
Watts channels failsafe ingredients – ‘60s songcraft, allusive lyrics, new wave cojones – into his vision, as well as acknowledging the seafaring folk songs of yore that give this album its nautical flavour. His singing voice is at times redolent of Cotton Mather’s Robert Harrison (witness ‘Albion’ and ‘Café Emery Hill’) and the ensemble playing forgoes guitar mangling and exploding drumkits in favour of keyboard textures and an economic, clean production patina. At over an hour in length, Man On The Sea may require the listener to invest more than they’re used to doing in this age of quick fixes and eight-song “albums”, but it’s worth it.
31 July 2020
I Don't Hear A Single - Man On The Sea Review
Spygenius are all about the details. Whether it’s punning word play, baffling in-jokes or a plethora of pop-culture references. When you listen to a Spygenius record, you’ll need your wits about you and Wikipedia within easy reach.
There aren’t any bad things on “Man on the Sea”, there are just a few things which aren’t as good as some of the other things on the record. From the amiable, banjo-led plod of “Midnight Bandola” to the early eighties, agit-pop of “Spite” (sung beautifully by Ruth Rogers, whose basswork is also exemplary throughout the record), there’s a trailerful of goodness here.
Watt’s lyrics are worth the purchase price on their own and if you hear a song this year with a better opening line than, “Don’t blame it on your mother / She can’t help being stupider than you”, I will be very surprised.
When you’ve had your fill of the Neil Innes inspired wordplay, you can have fun playing “spot the reference” – for example, check out the New Seekers-style harmonies on “Tomorrowland” and the tip of the hat to Morecambe and Wise on “Remember Me When I was Good.”
“Man on the Sea” is an ambitious record that hits the vast majority of what it aims for. When it’s good, its damn-near brilliant. When it’s less than good, it’s only very slightly less than good.
27 July 2020
Ian Rushbury - I Don't Hear A Single
Musocribe - Man On The Sea Review
Seventeen songs is a lot of material; when an artist stuffs that much music onto an album, it’s fair to approach it with skepticism: are they poor editors who simply dump everything out there, GbV- style? There’s no need for such guardedness where Spygenius is concerned; Man on the Sea doesn’t have any weak tracks. In fact, the album has the character of a best-of collection from a band you just didn’t know about until now. Jangling pop, ambitious art-pop, Who-like punch, heavenly vocal harmonies, subtly psychedelic flourishes and a strong sense of melody are Spygenius’ stock in trade, and they’re all served up in great supply on Man on the Sea. Imagine a less quirky XTC or a slightly more idiosyncratic Squeeze, and you’ll begin to approach the character of Spygenius.
22 July 2020
Voix De Garage Grenoble - Man On The Sea Review
Pour les fans de ce groupe de Canterbury l’attente de ce 5ème album (annoncé primairement pour 2018) aura été bien longue. Mais ça valait le coup d’attendre puisque finalement c’est un double album que Spygenius propose! Mais surtout un vrai bon double album! Excellent, même! Habituellement les doubles albums sont souvent un fourre-tout bien inutile et vain, avec un certain nombre de chansons superfétatoires et surnuméraires, Il n’en est absolument pas question ici!
17 CHANSONS qui raviront les vrais fans de POP ouvert d’esprit, et aux oreilles toujours à la recherche d’un groupe capable de faire vibrer leur corde sensible! Entre Indie 90, Paisley Underground, une certaines idée du mélange du Folk et de la Jangle Pop comme ça se faisait à Athens (Georgie) dans les 80’s… On peut aussi évoquer quelques pointures de down-under : Sunnyboys, Chills, Church… voir même les Died Pretty… On peut aussi retrouver ici et là l’évocation d’une certaine scène Weird Folk typiquement anglaise, et peut-être même quelques pointes de racines celtes.
Les mélodies de Spygenius ne sont pas seulement belles elles ont en plus de la substance!
Spygenius ne sombre jamais dans le salmigondis sonore. Toutes ces chansons sont parfaitement composées, interprétées et mise en forme et en son! L’album lui même est composé de tel sorte qu’on oublie que c’est un double! On se laisse embarquer à bord du navire Spygenuis qui flotte délicatement sur le fleuve talent!
18 July 2020
Voix De Garage Grenoble
Power Pop - Man On The Sea Review
Imagine you took your favorite folk, power pop, and psych confections and mixed them all together. Then you covered the resulting treat with Belgian chocolate. Essentially, you’d have a candy that appeals to every appetite. That’s what you get with Spygenius’ fifth LP entitled Man On the Sea. There are seventeen tracks in all and while every single one is worth your attention, I’m going to focus primarily on the ones that tickle me the most – the mid and up tempo pop songs.
“In A Garden” begins with a simple beat, slowly gaining momentum until the guitar jangle and infectious melody carry you away. It’s classic 80’s era pop done to perfection. The melody is uber-catchy and harmonies exquisite in “Watch Your Back”, the closest thing to Greensberry Woods I think I’ve ever heard. Hell – the lead vocal even sounds a little bit like Matt Huseman. Add the Beatles style halt and it’s perfect. Speaking of guitar jangle, REM fans will absolutely love “If You Go A-Roving”. There are some great psych-pop songs here, too. “Café Emery Hill” reminds me of my favorite Move songs as it advances to a marching beat and a baroque style organ. If the la la’s don’t grab you, the bells certainly will. It’s spectacular. My favorite track is probably “Windy”. If you’ve forgotten what Green Pajamas sounded like when they were creating their psych-pop masterpieces, this is it. Even the lyrics sound like something Jeff Kelly would write. “I always believed you when you said you’d call. I always believed you when you said you meant to call.”
Every time I hear this album I like it more than the last time. Spygenius’ Man On the Sea will be in rotation in this household for a very long time.
13 July 2020
Richard Rossi - Power Pop
Pop A Looza - Man On The Sea Review
Steered by vocals best defined as the missing link between the quirky charm of Robyn Hitchcock and Ian Hunter on a Dylanesque bender, Spygenius ices their material with industrious structures, unique hook lines and compelling curves in general. Putting a premium on exploration, Man On The Sea illuminates with color and wonder.
From the vintage dance hall shuffle of Remember Me When I Was Good to the ominous din of Green Eyed Monster to the harmonious jangle of Watch Your Back – which is an admitted renovation of John Lennon and Paul McCartney‘s You’re Going To Lose That Girl – the project stands as a striking survey of mercurial moods that seriously does offer something for everyone. The brooding psychedelic folk of Dolphinarium 1986 mirrors certain aspects of bands like Procol Harum and Traffic, while Ruth Rogers handles lead vocals on the melodious monogram of Spite and the infectiously jubilant Cafe Emery Hill could easily be mistaken as a paisley-laced bubblegum nugget from the swinging Carnaby Street era. Another True Day rolls in as a nifty guitar pop piece, where cuts such as In A Garden and New Street, rock with strength and balance.
By investigating and embodying various sounds and styles, Spygenius not only preserves multiple musical values on Man On The Sea, but the band adds their own individual touch to their thoughtfully-composed essays, which mix philosophical prose with nautical themes. Prepare for a fun and fascinating odyssey!
11 July 2020
Beverly Patterson - Pop A Looza
Bliss Aquamarine - Man On The Sea Review
Man on the Sea is the fifth album from Canterbury's SPYGENIUS, available as a double LP, CD or download. The physical formats come with lavish gatefold packaging with psychedelic cartoon art by Joseph Champniss, including a pull-out map. Salaud Days is not a typo but a pun for those who understand French insults. It's a chiming yet biting, REM-inspired number, featuring that ultra-jangly guitar sound I so love, along with delicate, intricate piano, and ending with a snippet of Irish jig accompanied by atmospheric found sounds. Cafe Emery Hill is sprightly, addictively catchy pop adorned with vocal harmonies and taking in a highly effective fairground organ section; a really uplifting song that had me grinning from ear to ear! Dolphinarium 1986 is electric folk shot through with brooding melancholy. As a Brummie, it's great to see Spygenius paying tribute to Birmingham's New Street railway station in the form of a fantastic ultramelodic pop song of the same name, bursting with joyous 'rrrroo-too-too' vocals, mod-esque organ and chiming guitar. In A Garden is a reworking of a song by Spygenius' singer/guitarist/songwriter Peter Watts' band from the late 80s, The Murrumbidgee Whalers. In its original form, the song appeared on the B-side of Giving Way to Trains, which was more recently included on Cherry Red's indiepop box set C88, alongside my all-time favourite band The Sea Urchins and many other important bands from that era. This new version of In A Garden is sublime janglepop with an urgent, driving undercurrent as well as an extra layer of sophistication imparted by the intricate use of piano. Spite differs from the other tracks in being written and sung by bassist Ruth Rogers. In the most part, it sounds like an authentic artefact of the mid-to-late 80s indiepop scene, somewhat like a mixture of The Siddeleys and Talulah Gosh, although they also nod towards the 60s with the lilting Mellotron and Beach Boys-style vocal harmonies. This is a really amazing album of janglepop with guts, creativity and depth - highly recommended!
9 July 2020
Louder Than War - Man On The Sea Review
To be five albums in and come up with the kind of energy and innovation that Spygenius ooze on Man Of The Sea is quite something. They remind me a bit of XTC at a similar stage, where a real depth and wild creativity has been added to some already keenly developed skills for writing and performing great tunes. That’s not praise that tends to be thrown around, but I think it is warranted in this case. The presentation is a big part of the whole thing too, all making for an alluring and intriguing mystery to be delved into via the sleeve, map and songs. A real whole world of an album you can throw yourself into – no need to just dip your toes into this sea. Though far more pop than their city’s prog forerunners, there’s a similar spirit of adventure and this particular set of Canterbury tales is thoroughly absorbing. Spygenius makes it look easy when a great deal of hard work and love has obviously gone into this record. A picture of the ancient and modern living side by side in a sometimes uncomfortable truce, Man On The Sea is packed with ideas, great tunes and novel sounds – what more could one require?
7 July 2020
Ian Canty - Louder Than War
Here Comes The Flood - Man On The Sea Review
Upon entering the world that English pop quartet Spygenius have created on their new album Man On The Sea it's OK to exclaim "that it's bigger on the inside". And since it disguised a "normal" double album it is pretty damn big at first glance as well. There are drinking songs, off-kilter lullabies, college rock tunes, vaudevillian attraction sounds, Kurt Weill-inspired rhythms, and US west Coast harmonies. This is a record that has more well-executed ideas on it than most bands can come up with over the course of their entire career.
Man On The Sea might be their magnum opus, but as long as the band's songwriter Peter Watts huge stack of songs is as big as it now, the band can keep going for many more years. Old school quality never goes out of style.
7 July 2020
Hans Werksman - Here Comes The Flood
Terrascope - Man On The Sea Review
Big Stir records have sent through a few CD’s which have caught my interest. Canterbury band Spygenius return with a new double album called ‘Man On The Sea’, it’s both sprawling and focused, it is their fifth album and hopefully will be successful for them, it deserves to be. From the reflective Man Overboard, the raucous Green Eyed Monster and the dark jazzy folk of Albion to the lush Tomorrowland, it is an album that grows on me with each successive play, a kind of Pop perfection with plenty going on, seek it out.
6 July 2020
Andrew Young - Terrascope
Big Take Over - Man On The Sea Review
The UK based outfit SPYGENIUS are about to unleash a mammoth double album, Man On The Sea. A set of seventeen brand new tracks that are warm, and energetic, enjoyable and unashamedly entertaining. This four-piece are intense, a three way collision of R.E.M, Tom Petty and the Beach Boys. With enough talent onboard to bring a unique charm to everything they do. At times, treading the boards of folk rock, power pop, and psychedelic dream pop, all with a very distinctive charm.
This album is long, but it is not boring, nor dragged out with filler. Man On The Sea is a beautiful piece of work that blends together effortlessly, experimenting with sounds and nailing an idea spectacularly well.
6 July 2020
Kevin Burke - Big Take Over
Michael L DeAngelis - Man On The Sea Review
This album can't be over-hyped. It really is a stunning, three-dimensional, rampaging beast. It will take you back to the days when "phoning it in" wasn't an option, when albums were bold and ambitious and sparkled like a million diamonds scattered along the beach at sunrise.
Some of the Big Stir releases are short bursts of rock/pop joy, clocking in at three minutes or so, filled with hooks and bridges and choruses and solos, and that’s an important and essential element of the music we all enjoy. Other projects use that as a starting point and head to the launch pad to see where else they can take things. Certain artists on the Big Stir roster will take you to all of the expected destinations and then hit the booster rockets and take you to new and uncharted realms. Spygenius is in that second category…they can throw down pure pop for now people with the best of them…but there’s more, a LOT more, and if you can just sideline the need for a quick and easy to digest meal of what is expected, you’ll be thrilled with where this album takes you. Highly recommended, this is an album that will continue revealing itself to you after many listens.
29 June 2020
Michael L DeAngelis
Jersey Beat - Man On The Sea Review
“Man On The Sea” is Spygenius’ fifth LP. And this is not just an LP, it’s a double LP, containing seventeen songs over the span of an hour and twenty minutes. Here, the Canterbury band give us a massive overview of British pop music, from current indie sounds to mod, psych, and folk music of past decades. I am struck by how much jangle there is in the guitars, with plenty influence from the 60s Beatles in several of the songs. I love the upbeat sound of “If You Go A-Roving,” which has vocal lines reminiscent of R.E.M. in the chorus. “Café Emery Hill” is a favorite, with its light lilting bounce, and the bridge is amazing, with its carnival-like atmosphere. That leads into a key change and recapitulation of the main theme, and a martial drum beat at the close. “Don’t Blame It On Your Mother” is the track that rocks the hardest of the bunch, with hints of a 70s jam band hiding in it. Another favorite is “Spite,” written and sung by bassist Ruth Rogers. It’s another light and bright one. The harmonized vocals, and especially the competing vocal lines toward the end, are wondrous, as is the vibraphone rapidly playing out an impossible line. “Windy” is not a cover of the old 60s pop tune, but it’s a song about fearing change, yet wanting change. The closer is “Remember Me When I Was Good,” a wish we all have for when we depart this mortal coil. It’s got a breezy jaunt, with ukulele and whistling, like something out of the 1940s, yet almost like a Monty Python tune, too.
9 June 2020
Paul Silver - Jersey Beat
The Big Takeover - 'Spite' and 'Heaven Is Blue' Single Review
Music has the power to bring people together, and even heal emotions. In this current climate, we as society face one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime, an invisible force in the form of a virus which is devastating the global population. Now, more than ever we need a lift, an escapism, even for a few minutes.
With that in mind, the vibrations of quality sounds are the one thing we can wrap ourselves around. SPYGENIUS know this too well, and are hitting the ground running with a light-at-the-end of the tunnel in “Spite”. The UK based outfit, have unleashed a track to lift the spirits, an insight into their double album, Man On The Sea. But, like my opening statement this is more than just a flare in the pandemic darkness. Last week, the world lost the talent of Matthew Seligman. Who, lost his battle against this bastard virus. He is only one of many musical figures who have succumbed to the illness, displaying how it does not discriminate, and everyone is susceptible.
However, SPYGENIUS have gone a step further. All proceeds from the “Spite” single will be donated to the Matthew Seligman Tribute Fund. A campaign organized by the late bassists’ friend Thomas Dolby to help Matthew’s dependent family to cope with his loss. Noble, and an undeniable tribute to the hardship that the music world is facing. Whilst many speculate how music will change post-covid-19? The real question should be what void will be left by the talent it takes?
The single “Spite” is a blistering cracker. Wrote, and sung by bassist Ruth Rogers, “Spite” rolls with wry vocals and a wall of melodic guitars. SPYGENIUS lead singer and songwriter Peter Watts called the Beatlesque ‘B’ side “Heaven Is Blue” “a dive into the murky waters of pastiche.” It does stir those White Album feelings, but it’s achingly brilliant, layered in a bluesy arc of emotion. Both songs hit the right, resonating note in this current climate, with a mission statement to help those loved ones left behind by an enormous talent who will be sadly missed. It is food-for-thought and the hope in humanity.
22 April 2020
Kevin Burke - The Big Takeover
Pop Geek Heaven - Spygenius Review
Spygenius are a classic British four piece pop-combo who have been defiantly doing their thing in a corner of south-east England since the mid-2000s. Their main singer and songwriter is Peter Watts, who once upon a time was the driving force behind 80s jangle-popsters the Murrumbidgee Whalers (check out Giving Way to Trains on Cherry Red’s C88 compilation). Ruth Rogers (bass), Matt Byrne (keys) and Alan Cannings (drums) complete the line-up – and everybody sings. This is a group who know their craft in terms of song writing and arrangement, with melody and harmony to the fore. Their music has echoes of all those classic 60s ‘B’ bands – Beatles, Byrds, Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, Bonzos – but resonates just as much with British new-wave artists (Costello, Dury, Squeeze, XTC), and college-radio darlings of later generations (Smiths, Hitchcock, REM). And there’s a lot of musical bric-a-brac in there too – souvenirs from surf and psych, folk and exotica, lounge and blues, rock and roll… like so many of the groups that inspired them, they view eclecticism as a strength, happily hoovering up myriad musical influences to produce their signature sound. Vive le bricolage! They are also known for their sophisticated lyrics, as intelligent as they are emotionally charged: sometimes witty, sometimes painful, sometimes insightful, sometimes just nonsensical…
31 May 2018
Pop Geek Heaven
Stencil Mag - Pacephale Review
With three releases behind them, Spygenius bring their fourth effort seeking to do something different and they certainly have something that isn’t easy to define. There is a certain quirkiness already to this album that is making it very enjoyable to listen to. Some albums are great because they are hard to listen to and absorb a lot of the listener in, this album is fun and it comes from a band having fun making this music.
The albums title translates as ‘headless’ and there is certainly nothing headless about this album. Spygenius have an album oozing with intelligent song writing, structure and the knowledge of how to sequence the songs. One of my favourite albums of the year, simply top notch.
30 May 2018
Kool Kat Musik - Pacephale Review
The latest (and fourth overall release) from these British psych pop pilgrims is a true adventure in style that demands your full attention when savoring. They’re an eclectic four piece electric band that uses a 60’s vocabulary to craft 21st century music with a post-modern twist. They are a band that refuse to be pigeonholed when it comes to musical category (ie, Rock, Pop), and in turn take several, jam them into a giant musical blender, and the results are fantastic to hear. “This ever inventive pop band changes its chameleon colors over and over on their latest effort. The lovely start of ‘Shall I Show You My Mirror’ opens to a chorus with compelling harmonies and catchy hook that sticks. It’s followed by the beatnik blues rock of ‘Backdoor Son of Man’ and turns again on the subdued Robyn Hitchcock-like ‘Heathen.’ While the band’s eclectic style is refreshing, a few tunes here really standout. ‘The Friendly Stars That Glow’ is a jangle pop gem, ‘Eucalyptus & Cigarettes’ has a lovely baroque composition and ‘And Her Snakes Were Decked With Smiles’ is a bouncy bit of English power pop. Even though the record is all over the place, their sense of fun and melody is never far behind. Sometimes you get lucky and a great band like Spygenius pops up! Highly Recommended.” – Powerpopaholic.com “A sweet, jangly, clever little concept album.” – Rex Broome/The Big Stir If you appreciate the jangle-meistering of The Byrds and The Beatles, the harmonies of Crosby, Stills & Nash, and the lyrical wit of Robyn Hitchcock, you’ll love Spygenius. EXCELLENT!!
14 May 2018
Kool Kat Musik
Goldmine Mag - Pacephale Review
Spygenius’ entertaining ‘Pacephale is a 13-song concept record originally released in 2016 by the UK quartet, and now given new life by the good folks at the fledgling Southern California-based Big Stir Records label.
5 May 2018
John Borack - GOLDMINEMAG.COM
Baby Sue - Pacephale Review
Spygenius is a four piece pop band based in Caterbury, England who have captured the attention and support of some very notable folks over the past few years. Pacephal is the fourth full-length release from the band, and it's bound to ignite the flames that have already been set. These guys have a classic sound that recalls a host of other artists including Badfinger and The Beatles (more so the former than the latter). But more than any other artist, we're often reminded of babysue favorite Redd Kross. But then...some of the more complex arrangements sometimes remind us of 10CC. And at other times we're reminded of Stackridge. Sheesh, this band's sound is really like a whole swirling mass of different artists and influences from all over the place. Pacephal is taken from the French word acephale which means headless. The added P is taken from the word paraphysics. There's a lot of variety here. Rather than simply tossing out one pop track after another, these guys tread into all sorts of musical terrain. The songs could all appropriately be described as pop, but there are all kinds of different pop presented here. Thirteen clever cuts, and they all have something substantial to offer. It's no wonder power pop fans are behind these guys. Really good stuff with substance.
3 April 2018
Liverpool Sound and Vision - Comforting Suture Review
The four member s of the band on this album, Matt Byrne, Alan Cannings, Ruth Rogers and Peter Watts combine so well, that the deliciousness of pop, pop music of a certain era is invoked and enjoyed. The spirit from days long since departed and that may appear so far away now to the younger listeners of music, is simply as cool as it was when their parents heard for the first time albums such as the aforementioned Pet Sounds, Revolver or any of the music that was coming out of the West coast area of America.
21 May 2014
Ian D. Hall Liverpool Sound and Vision
Powerpopaholic - Pacephale Review
The ever inventive pop band Spygenius changes its chameleon colors over and over on the latest LP pronounced “pah-seh-fahl.” It’s a French word that means “headless” with a “P” added to it. The P is a nod to Pataphysics. The lovely start of “Shall I Show You My Mirror” opens to a chorus with compelling harmonies and catchy hook that sticks. It’s followed by the beatnik blues rock of “Backdoor Son of Man” and turns again on the subdued Robyn Hitchcock-like “Heathen.”
While the band’s eclectic style is refreshing, a few tunes here really standout. “The Friendly Stars That Glow” is a jangle pop gem, “Eucalyptus & Cigarettes” has a lovely baroque composition and “And Her Snakes Were Decked With Smiles” is a bouncy bit of English power pop. Even though the LP is all over the place, that sense of fun and melody is never far behind. Highly Recommended.
8 out of 10
14 February 2014
Powerpopaholic - Comforting Suture Review
Spygenius is one of those quirky bands that shifts style with each album, sometimes you never know what you’ll get. Opening with a surf guitar instrumental it blasts into “Furniture Boats.” Its a quick paced song with jangley guitars, obtuse lyrics and its kinda like Ian Anderson joined REM.
This really gets obvious on “Kevin” which sounds like it fell off REM’s Document No.5 album. The formulaic approach changes on “All My Skeletons” with its memorable chorus, and the double-tracked vocals of “California Sunshine” thrills with its pop hooks. It takes a dark turn from that point, till the beautiful whistling “The Void.” and the bouncingly jovial “K is Mentally Ill.” The band creatively use horns and xylophones throughout its compositions. Loads of fun for everyone.
27 December 2012
Pop Geek Heaven - Spygenius Review
‘Spygenius’s music is somehow familiar yet at the same time hard to place exactly – kind of like meeting a cousin you never knew you had. So who is this guy? Well on the one hand, he looks a lot like your groovy grandparents: all those 60s ‘B’ bands – Beatles, Byrds, Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield. On the other, he seems right at home with all those intelligent college-radio popsters of a later generation – guys like XTC, the Smiths, Robyn Hitchcock, REM. But then again, he’s clearly travelled the world – souvenirs from surf and psych, folk and exotica, lounge and blues, rock and even roll are pinned, fairly tastefully, on his sleeves. And on his travels he’s really learned his craft: memorable melodies, heavenly harmonies, gorgeous guitars, perfect percussion, bitchin’ bass and, erm, kinky(?) keyboards abound. One thing you can say, though – this guy is definitely English. And he’s definitely quirky. Sometimes he’s really happy, and funny too. But then sometimes he’s just as sad. And sometimes he just doesn’t make any sense at all! So he’s a little bit intense, maybe – but interesting and definitely worth taking the trouble to get to know.
2 November 2012
Pop Geek Heaven
Kool Kat Musik - Comforting Suture Review
This British quartet plays vibrant, sometimes very jangly, minor key rockers inspired by classic 60's Brit bands such as Fairport Convention, the Move, the Beau Brummels and yes, the Beatles. "They sound similar to the under-appreciated, Mitch Easter-produced, Velvet Elvis record from 1998. The spy movie goof 'Spygenius 65' leads into 'Furniture Boats' which sounds a little like Fairport Convention and Knots & Crosses. Two guitars perform intricate tight manoeuvres on 'Kevin,' like two Blue Angels playing leap frog. 'Here We Go Again' has madrigal-like boy/girl vocals and the slow churn of a steamship. 'All My Skeletons' is churning Brit rock with gorgeous chords, somewhere between Beau Brummels and Beatles. 'California Sunshine' is a Byrds-like song with a rainbow bridge. The McCartney-esque “The Void” is an acoustic whistling past the graveyard charmer about the afterlife. 'K Is Mentally Ill,' another chiming power popper about a serious subject has a Chad & Jeremy feel to it, with boy/girl vocals." - Pop Geek Heaven.com "They are one of those quirky bands that shifts style with each album, sometimes you never know what you’ll get. Opening with a surf guitar instrumental it blasts into 'Furniture Boats.' It's a quick paced song with jangly guitars. 'Kevin' sounds like it fell off REM’s 'Document No.5'. The formulaic approach changes on 'All My Skeletons' with its memorable chorus, and the double-tracked vocals of 'California Sunshine' thrills with its pop hooks. It takes a dark turn from that point, till the beautiful whistling 'The Void.' and the bouncingly jovial 'K is Mentally Ill.' The band creatively use horns and xylophones throughout its compositions. Loads of fun for everyone." - Powerpopaholic.com A grower! EXCELLENT!!
30 September 2012
Kool Kat Music
Kool Kat Musik - Red Lounge Review
Charmingly quirky, Prog-leaning at times (in a good, melodic, not too overbearing way), jangly British pop! Inspired by bands like The Beach Boys, The Beatles and Robyn Hitchcock, they offer great original music with a light 60s influence. It's guitar based pop music for people with an appreciation for harmonies and complicated lyrics. "There are certain bands who when asked what music genre they fit into will say Rock, Pop, R&B etc. Then there is Spygenius, a band who refuse this need to be pigeonholed under a certain catagory and rather take several, put them into a giant musical blender and the results are fantastic to hear. 'Digden's Rise' is a perfect example of this and probably my favourite song on the album.""It's not all musical madness, I was very fond of the lovely harmonies on 'This Morning After' and 'First Do No Harm', showing a softer side to Peter Watts' songcraft and writing. It's great to hear a band with so much invention willing to throw away the rulebooks of verse, bridge, chorus and two guitars, bass and drums by just going nuts! More please!"- Gig Guide/Dec 2009 "Starting with a mix of lounge organ, guitars and percussion with 'Digden's Rise', it could be some alternate James Bond movie theme with it's dark jazz elements and stormy ending. It's a heady start, but it yields to the brighter 'Smardy's Fish Paradise' which smacks of Neil Innes or Stackridge with a ramble about English love. This style continues on 'The Ballad Of Jack Snipe' where the XTC tradition of multiple themes and rhythms layered one after the other make a compelling listen. Guitar strum and handclaps lead the song 'Stupid'. and 'First Do No Harm' sounds like it fell off of a classic Crosby Stills Nash album. Another gem, 'The Girl Who's Everywhere' fills the air with Byrdsian guitars and vocals, and 'Trolls' is a six-minute epic that any Stackridge fan will cheer loudly to. Eclectic listeners will find the band a real treat." - PowerPopaholic.com
30 April 2010
Kool Kat Musik
Powerpopaholic - Red Lounge Review
There are certain bands that just defy convention, and Spygenius is one of them.
7 April 2010
Aaron Kupferberg - Powerpopaholic
Powerpopaholic -Songs From The Devil's Typist Review
Sometimes you get lucky and a great band just pops up, like Spygenius... Overall an outstanding album that is sure to hook you in and keep you humming. I will go out on a limb here and say this eclectic mix deserves a spot on our year end “best-of” list.
6 July 2009
Aaron Kupferberg - Powerpopaholic
Kool Kat Musik - Song's From The Devil's Typist Review
Their brilliant 2009 Squeeze/XTC-like gem! "Take a lot of funk, some good old fashioned no-nonsense rock and mix in a little cheese-laden synth playing and you're close to their unique, energising sound. I mustn't forget to mention the excellent vocals that fit perfectly to this mix. While quirky at times, songs such as 'A Bottle of Reds and Two Good Friends' are very warming with their calming sweet melodies and gentle vocals. The album is great for feeling good and my favourite song has to be 'The Ballard of Dr T F Bundy and his Hirsute Sweetheart' for it's simple funk-filled obscurity!' - Gig Guide/Feb 2009 "Sometimes you get lucky and a great band just pops up, like Spygenius. This electric four piece from London, starts with a Beach Boys a capella opening ('Dumb Angels') then gets all hippy funky, similar to the 1910 Fruitgum Company with 'The Ballad Of Dr T.F. Bundy & His Hirsute Sweetheart.' 'I Want That Girl' sounds like Jack Bruce (Cream) fronting for a Doors/Jellyfish hybrid. The band mashes together some diverse 60's and modern influences, in a very original way. Songwriter Peter Watts does a great job here mixing the psychedelic stew of chords and harmonies on 'Gilgamesh' as well. The highlight here is the quirky masterpiece 'Pineapple Drive' where it's jammed together in a party atmosphere. The humor here is akin to Bonzo Dog Band, without being too over the top silly. Then the album's serious side appears on '13 Years (May Song)' where they channel Crosby/Stills/Nash. As the album progresses the sixties influences fade. The softness of the "A Bottle Of Reds & Two Good Friends" will remind many of Cloud Eleven. The latter tracks have a more modern feel ('Wintergarden Summertime') sounding a little like Green and Yellow TV."
30 April 2009
Kool Kat Musik