Sell the Silver
Nine Mile Records
Of all the crushes you had in school, this one stood out, this one was special. Many years have passed and you’ve both moved on to different loves, different lives, in different states, but lately you’ve been lonely. You’re single again, wasting days at a dead-end job; you figure the best times of your life are far behind you. Then one day, through the shoe store’s door, in walks that special lost love. And he is even more gorgeous than before.
This is Spouse.
Formed in the mid-1990s by singer/guitarist José Ayerve, who’s called Portland home in years past, the band released a string of stellar indie-rock records through the first decade of this century, but had been on indefinite hiatus for seven years while its frontman pursued a solo project (the glammy, dance-floor focused A Severe Joy) and moved to South America. Now the group is back in action with a fresh lineup and a new limited-edition cassette (also available as a digital album), Sell the Silver.
Spouse fans from the old days (like me) haven’t been this gobsmacked with glee since The Pixies reformed. But unlike that reunion, this one does not disappoint. “Let’s turn it around; don’t make it about you or me / Recover the time; an elegant sound,” Ayerve sings on the slinky opener, “Sonic Camouflage,” and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Spouse’s music is elegantly made, richly textured, sophisticated and smart. As Silver shows, there are elements of weirdness and mystery in the songs (dig the Atari-age ska-rock of “Bitdrone”). That’s what keeps you coming back to their material, even after decades.
Well, that and the great guitar riffs, like the big one that shoulders “Uglier, Friendless.” Plus the impeccable drumming of veteran Spouse member JJ O’Connell. Seriously — whether you play a kit or just appreciate the sound, listen to this Bangor/Brewer native’s work. Spouse offers a free master class in college-rock craftsmanship by including the instrumental versions of all five songs on this release. The fact these tracks are a great listen even without Ayerve’s evocative vocals is testament to the high musical caliber of his bandmates, who now include Maine-raised multi-instrumentalist Dup Crosson (a.k.a. Saint Solitude), Dinosaur Jr collaborator Marc Seedorf, and guitarist Peyton Pinkerton (a guest on Ayerve’s countrified 2008 solo album, The Nuclear Waste Management Club).
The hiatus is over. Spouse has reappeared. He gives you a huge hug. You glance at the finger. There is no ring.