The Spectors: Beat is Murder: Cockfights & Cakefights 1992-1996

The Spectors
Beat is Murder: Cockfights & Cakefights 1992-1996
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Keith Knows Mod. This 2001 City Pages headline--shorter than a Mary Quant hemline--precedes a letter to the editor in which skinny-pant-sportin' guitarist Keith Patterson helped explain the genre to this paper's rock critics. Yessiree Brian Jones, Keith knows mod, and it's not merely a cute bowl haircut, or a slick suit, or a "The" (duh). Mod means attitude and, according to Patterson's letter, some local bands just ain't mod.

He should know. For over a decade, Patterson and his mates in the "The" bands (Funseekers, Conquerers, Autumn Leaves, and Spectors) have refined the art of dress--this is, clothing their audience in sexy, sweaty, rock 'n' roll. With the Spectors, Patterson and company (along with non-Patterson bands like the Hypstrz and Green Machine) helped reinvent the local hip-shakin' scene in the late '80s and early '90s, paying more homage to the Easybeats and the Monks (whom they cover) than another famous skinny-pant sportin' soul man--Prince. You can hear that trademark sound developing on Beat is Murder, a collection of the Spectors' complete works and live outtakes.

The Spectors' emblematic motto, beauty-fashion-wellness-murder, still clings to their music like a faded carnation to a stiff Nehru jacket. Whether yelping about the girl of his dreams (who is suddenly stalking his nightmares) or a groovy, groovy kitty named Rhubarb Ruby, lovelorn vocalist Chris Knott wears the jilted and jittery look well. "I Fell in Love," which is crowned by Knott's strychnine howl and propelled by Patterson's sugar-freak rhythm guitar, is a basement party waiting to happen, and the reverb jangle of "The Trains" could belong to the greatest prom band in the country circa 1966. But unlike that of their proto-punk influences, the Spectors' ancient analog fuzz doesn't muddy their production. Every "Hey, Culligan Man!"-type call-and-response on "Oh, How to Do Now" rings with a clarity that could make the Monks flinch.

At their upcoming reunion show, you might be able to answer the Culligan Man call from the audience. As Knott remarks in liner notes to this collection, the band has "had almost as many reunion shows as Fleetwood Mac." That's a boon for those envisioning epic Jets/Sharks battles decked out in sharp suits and Vidal Sassoon bubble-cuts. Or was it just a turf war between the twin towns?

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