With a blast of feedback and "1-2-3-4" we're off, launching into the debut album from The Spitfires. They're a band who have promised much over the last couple of years with their guitarist/vocalist Billy Sullivan leading from the front. They've produced a fistful of singles since Spark To Start powered its way into our consciousness, constantly gigging and honing their sound. Response is the result.
The lyrics in the opener Disciples indicate the direction of travel. They are socially aware, painting a picture of Great Britain in 2015 as effectively as any that came before did for their time. It is followed by anthems Tell Me, complete with infectious hook, and the full on Escape Me which showcases a wonderful blast of brass. "You've been living in my head for ages" sings Sullivan, just one of many lines that jump out and seep their way into your mind. Spoke Too Soon is perhaps the most ambitious tune on the album, pushing forward into new territory and incorporating melodies that will stay with you. Relapse is classic Spitfires, a hard, sharp guitar sound, blasting out chords and basslines and keyboards with edgy, powerful vocals. Top class.
Stand Down is more social commentary for our times - "get a job and fight to keep it" - delivered with passion and attitude, a kind of musical equivalent of an episode of Play For Today from the 70's. Serenade Part 1 (Part 2 comes later as the penultimate tune on the album) offers an instrumental insight into the musical depth of the band, offering an interlude that provides a moment to catch your breath before you are again blasted away by the sheer power of the anthem that is I'm Holdin' On.
The remainder of the album is packed with classics. The newly recorded first single Spark To Start has a more prominent ska edge this time round, which suits its melody and delivery perfectly, getting the feet moving and the adrenalin pumping. The original b-side Words To Say is also on fire here, complete with strings, more ska and raw energy.
When I Call Out Your Name is, from where I'm sitting, one of the best things the band has ever recorded, a plaintive yet confident slice of beauty, forged from hope that emerges from the despondency of contemporary life when all is laid bare. After Serenade Part 2, comes the finale, the achingly real 4am, where there's damp on the walls, an ultimatum to buy a tv and the realisation that your "friends don't care because they'll make sure they're never there". Its a top quality slice of realism, as accurate a portrayal of life as That's Entertainment was in its day.
With this album, The Spitfires have produced a classic of social realism, combined with musical accomplishment, diversity and a hard-edged approach that blasts out of the speakers. It is the sort of album that will still be played in thirty years time, the subjects are so true to life and universal, the lyrics poignant, the melodies infectious. It will retain its urgency for a long time to come.