In an age in which seemingly every new guitar band collapses under the weight of the hype around their debut by bowing to label pressure and recording a sub-standard follow-up, it’s refreshing to hear a second effort as intelligently crafted as Moth Boys.
While it doesn’t represent an out-an-out reinvention for Spector, instead this feels like a lesson in the art of ‘the difficult second album’; it retains the best bits from debut Enjoy It While It Lasts - the soaring pop hooks, contemplative lyrics and sense of character - but makes subtle improvements that lead to a far better record than their first.
Spector's breakthrough was defined by comparisons to The Killers, and frontman Fred MacPherson's love for grandiose, sing-your-heart-out indie anthems is ever-present still. The record comes front-loaded with the band's best two songs to date in "All The Sad Young Men" and "Stay High". The former brings Smiths-like melancholy to the dancefloor before exploding into life on the kind of chorus you wish Brandon Flowers still wrote. The latter soars to even greater heights, with MacPherson delivering a one-man assault on the tedious nature of modern romance as he muses "where we're going we don't need roads / set menus or two-for-one codes / these are the ways that we show our love".
The rest of the record doesn't quite live up to its two openers, but much like the band's first LP, somewhat uninventive instrumentation is masked by the charm and character of MacPherson. His delivery consistently highlights the nagging sense of sadness hinted at in the lyrics and the album feels a lot more genuine and meaningful as a result.
There's certainly no subtlety to the instrumentation, however - the likes of "Decade of Decay" and "West End" reveal heavy '80s pop influences that define the album's second half. With so many artists reading from the 'cool 80s' bible written by The Smiths and Joy Division, it's nice to hear guitar music embracing a bit of cheesy disco.
On Moth Boys Spector learn from the shortcomings of their debut and comfortably eclipse its quality. With tongue firmly in cheek, the four-piece named their first record Enjoy It While It Lasts, and on the evidence of their follow-up they can savour the ride a little longer.