The comedian Stewart Lee is renowned for a strange, off-beat brand of comedy. It seems he is happiest when not playing by the rules, if he is even aware that there are any. He seeks to subvert the form and show you the inner workings of the jokes, pulling the curtain away in the Emerald City to reveal what is actually going within. He underlines his point by occasionally throwing in the conventional joke, one that even fans of Michael McIntyre or (does google search) Joel Dommett (?) might recognise but then pulls the rug from under our feet by proudly announcing, “See, I can write jokes, I just choose not to.” This lengthy and laboured introduction is precisely how I see the latest single from The Amber Bugs.
Like the aforementioned anarchic Midlander, they too opt for creations which are genre-hopping, unconventional, tongue-in-cheek, chaotic and which change pace, direction and purpose on a whim. Often all within the first three minutes of an individual track. Spiders & Ghosts is the moment when they turn to the camera and say, “See, we can write normal songs; we just choose not to.”
The song takes the form of a strange and beguiling balladic intro, which quickly picks up the pace and turns into a wonderfully energetic and infectious indie song, one shot through with spiralling guitar riffs, brass salvos, singalong choruses, pulsing bass lines and drums which adds an avalanche of momentum. When it really gets moving, all of these energies make you feel as if the band couldn’t stop playing the song even if they wanted to.
The lyrics have a childlike association, and I suspect they originated in a conversation about monsters under the bed or sleeping with the light on. Perhaps they are aimed at someone older and are more metaphorical in nature; we all, after all, have our own demons and devils in the dark corners of our life. And we all need someone to help keep them at bay, an actual knight in shining armour or its modern equivalent. Either way, it is something that we can all relate to.
And everything is relative, even though I rambled ad nauseum at the beginning about the band playing things straight, it should only be seem that way by their own previous benchmarks and standards. There is still enough non-conformity, humour, musical smarts and individuality amongst this more mainstream approach to music making. In short, the requisite level of Amber Bugginess is maintained throughout. Hurrah!
I like Stewart Lee as a comedian for all the reasons I listed above. I love The Amber Bugs for all the same reasons. Spiders & Ghosts proves that even when they are trying to be less weird, they are still equally wonderful; even when they are toeing the line, they still think outside the box; even when they just choose to deliver a more mainstream song, they are still the most exciting and interesting kids on the pop-rock block.