Judging by some of the 20th anniversary write-ups that appeared on the Internet earlier this year, it seems that even after all this time some folks are still figuring out what to make of Attack of the Grey Lantern. The hammering guitars and looping beats of their easily enjoyable early singles “Skin Up Pin Up” and “Take it Easy Chicken” were so quickly replaced with prog-ish ambitions that people had little time to adjust. Yet even that record was relatively straightforward compared to what was to come. Six may have been rushed into existence the following year, but imagine how many other twists and turns might have been crammed in there if they had even more time.
Spooky Action finally arises from significantly different circumstances. Without the encouragement of that online petition from fans, Draper might still be stewing over this therapeutically purging rock opera about friends, business and betrayal. Song titles read like self-help revelations -- “Jealousy is a Powerful Emotion”, “Friends Make the Worst Enemies”, “You Don’t Really Know Someone ‘Til You Fall Out With Them” -- and, as Draper recently revealed, the album is indeed very much a part of a long healing process. Though he remains conspicuously quiet for the first three minutes of the space-chase-sequence opener “Don’t Poke The Bear”, once he finally lets loose he rarely lets up.
Amidst a pop landscape of trained professionals and unadventurous indie vocalists, a set of pipes like Draper’s stands out even more now than it did in the late 90s. Spooky Action is as dense and detailed as his former band’s best known work, but song for song he picks one mode and more or less sticks to it, setting up a more reasonable barrier to entry. Familiar flashes appear, like a trace of “Legacy” lingering in the chorus of “Things People Want”, but Spooky Action’s dislocation is its comfort zone.