There’s hardly any doubting it: Scott Kannberg enjoys being in the spotlight, and for good reason. After a decade of playing second fiddle to Pavement supreme leader Stephen Malkmus, Kannberg eventually decided to go it alone, releasing three largely anonymous records as Preston School of Industry in the early 2000s before coming out with ‘The Real Feel’ under his Spiral Stairs moniker in 2009.
Now, eight years later, and nearly two decades on from the bitter dissolution of Pavement, and it sounds like Kannberg’s desire to prove himself is as strong as ever. ‘Doris & The Daggers’ is his latest offering, and by some distance his most harmonious, merit-worthy collection yet.
Lead-single ‘Dance (Cry Wolf)’ is a nourishing blend of pop comfort food with soaring riffs and pinged drumming, while ‘Dundee Man’ traipses gleefully in a Scotsman-themed jaunt before wrapping up with a flurry of 8-Bit Pacman bleeps.
Kannberg’s songwriting style is noticeably unrushed, sticking to an occasionally tiresome verse-chorus-verse pattern that tries to channel the same spark as beloved Pavement tracks ‘Date with Ikea’ and ‘Kennel District’, where the California native shines front and centre on lead vocals. This means that even some of the record’s best moments — like the rippling guitars on ‘Emoshuns’ or the vintage Nastanovich-inspired chaos of the title-track — tend to feel a bit like low-hanging fruit. Other cuts are just simply less memorable; take the sprawling and overcooked ‘Trams (Stole My Love), or even the slow-burning ‘Exiled Tonight’, which features barely-there backing vocals from The National’s Matt Berninger.
Easy pickings are also had on ‘Angel Eyes’, which takes off with a guitar solo that’s equal parts exquisite and indulgent, while the acoustic Wilco hum of ‘AWM’ jumps out of the gate with one of Kannberg’s more lucid musings: “Common decisions, hostile demands / Take over your life, and they tie your hands”.
Spiral Stairs has returned with a record that should be appreciated for what it is: an all-round good time. Its straightforward, no bells and whistles approach is at once its greatest appeal and its most obvious shortcoming. ‘Doris & The Daggers’ is deliciously satisfying beer rock — nothing more, nothing less.
Words: Noveen Bajpai
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