November 6, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Spearmint

Spearmint is a British pop band that for the past 15 or so years has been making some seriously great, northern soul infused, power pop. Starting out in 1995 the band produced a number of good singles --and one great one-- through the end of the century. The great single was a modern northern soul foot stomper in which they sampled the legendary Dobie Gray. 1998's "Sweeping the Nation" became a big hit for the band and helped to get them recognized enough to begin to get serious label and production consideration.

A year later they put out their first full album (they'd had a comp of singles before that), A Week Away. It's a fantastic piece of guitar centered indie pop with a strong soul influence. Later albums were somewhat less soulful, but more poppy. Their last album in 2006, Paris in a Bottle is a smooth, polished piece of electronic poetry with Shirley Lee's style almost like spoken word performance art in places. Throughout their career the band has not strayed far from the kind of music you might have heard from the Housemartins, Beautiful South, The Style Council, or Teenage Fanclub. Now, ten years after A Week Away, with a fistful of full length releases in their wake, the band is rereleasing a special 10th anniversary edition of their debut album, and including an 8 song EP with it.

You'd think that arriving along with the Britpop phenomena that they would have achieved mega stardom. But, for some reason the public eye sort of passed them by, leaving them as stars of cult status. A good, criminally overlooked band.

Spearmint started out as a five piece, and three original members --Shirley Lee, Simon Calnan, Ronan Larvor remain in the group today. Along the way they added Jim Parsons and Andy Lewis. Shirley Lee just this past year released his own solo LP -- alhtough since the band played together on much of it, it really is a lot like just the next Spearmint album. Andy Lewis is busy playing with Paul Weller -- as well as having his own self-titled project where he produces some great soul music. And Jim Parsons front his own side-project, a quirky, indie pop band called tElly.

Spearmint -- Sweeping The Nation

Spearmint -- Scottish Pop

Spearmint -- Goldmine