The Whole Shebang (2005, self-released)
NO NO, WAIT! He ain’t singin’ the blues. AH HELL, COME BACK HERE! Paul Spencer sure as hell is no blooming disciple of Satriani, Vai, or Malmsteen. That’s a Rickenbacker, folks. You do know what people do with those, don’t you? Well, in Paul Spencer’s case, he uses it to launch one dirty garage-punk lick after another on his debut effort. This will teach you (and I) for shamelessly attempting to judge an album by its cover.
Basically, there are two divisions to The Whole Shebang – the superior first half (especially the first 4-5 songs) and then there’s the weaker, less consistent latter half. The rebellious opener ‘We Don’t Give A Damn’ and the choppy, rumbling r&b stomp of ‘Instant Crush’ immediately give me the impression that mayhaps Spencer stepped out from behind the reigns of a late 70’s punk outfit. Paul’s vocal delivery has much in common with Richard Hell (Voivods) or Jeff Dahl (Angry Samoans) – especially when he tortures his vox box on the ripping, too-brief ‘Higher Ground’. Awesome. ‘Hands Off’, the best track on the album, meshes grit and melody extremely well. ‘Don’t Let The World’ sounds like a woozy 70’s Rolling Stones outtake with it’s bar-room piano and Paul’s lazy, but soulful, vocals.
As stated previously, things tend to drag towards the end of the album. ‘Walk Away Christie’ has a heavy Replacements Tim-era feel to it – a chunky, yet melodic, guitar sound to die for but the lyrics are lacking a bit here. Spencer gives ‘repetition’ a new meaning by wailing the title line for what seems like an eternity. The following, acoustic ‘ballad’, ‘Worried About You’, a dour recollection of a drug-addled friend, is well-intentioned but doesn’t suit Spencer well on the album. I spent the entire 3+ minutes yearning for grit and thankfully, it resurfaces on the barn-burning title track closer.
You can definitely attain that Spencer is well-versed in the rock ‘n roll and punk of the 70’s and 80’s, he makes no bones about it on this release. Hopefully on future releases he clears out some space on his sleeves to make room for a stamp of his own. Regardless, if you don’t find your head bobbing and ass shaking during half the tunes on The Whole Shebang, you had better check your pulse, pronto.