I miss The Spinanes. I love their music. Some twelve and a half years years after I first bought Manos at Schoolkids' Records in Ann Arbor on a cold, early winter afternoon in 1993, The Spinanes' debut album (and one of the best $10 I have ever spent in my entire life) still thrills me to no end. This is that one record that remains a best friend, the kind to whom you can constantly return feeling like you've never left. Manos is a very important personal touchstone and in 1993, when it came out, I was a just a kid-- fucking up in college, working at dead-end jobs in the service industry, trying to get by while falling in love with film in Ann Arbor's art house cinemas (the first to which I had access.) Manos has seen me through all of the changes in my life since then, and it remains as fresh and interesting to me as the first day I heard it. A big, optimistic pop record with a sexy, heavy dark side.
But it isn't my favorite.
In 1996, The Spinanes released Strand, their second album. It was March when I got the record, a couple of days after it had been released, and I was just at the start of one of those relationships; not "the one", but certainly one of the "ones." Lingering, formative "ones." The ones that are required before finding "the one." Anyway, I didn't know it at the time, but I was also two months away from leaving Michigan for good. I will never forget the first time I heard Strand. I was caught in a huge rain storm, driving between East Lansing and Flint, MI. The sky turned pitch black in the middle of the day. Ominous clouds. I pushed play, and waited for the music to begin. A slow, industrial hiss, a heart-beat drum kicking in. A single strum of the guitar. A whispered voice...
Hey baby/ your head's on fire... Chasing the miles/ escaping your one desire...
And the downpour began. As much as Manos stays fresh and new to me, Strand is the record I'll never forget; the record that captured a momentary version of myself, a 25 year old love-sick me, driving in a rain storm, on the verge of moving east. A frozen moment, suspended and hopeful. I love both records dearly, but it is Strand, the darker and more challenging of the two albums, that still gives me chills.
Another day spent retracing things I’ve said...The marks they've left there on your face
Scott Plouf would leave The Spinanes after Strand and join Built To Spill as their drummer, while Rebecca Gates, singer-songwriter extraordinare, would record one more album under The Spinanes name, the equally amazing Arches and Aisles* (1998) and a solo EP called Ruby Series. Last year, Rebecca played a live show on NPR and her stripped down, haunting versions of these songs are still achingly beautiful.
But there is nothing like Strand to bring it all flooding back... Has It really been ten years?
Tell you I miss you, there's no one else I'm dreaming of...and all the lips that kiss me are no match for your fever touch...
* Interesting tidbit: The Arches and Aisles tour featured the always amazing/ post-Chisel Ted Leo on lead guitar and, according to reports from the time, he's was a damn fine guitar player. Love the old school web page! Oh, frames and scanned photos, how I miss you, too.
Lines and Lines by The Spinanes, from 1996's (ouch) Strand