Sally Crewe wants to be your race-car driver. This much is crystal clear. She wants to hop through the window, pop the clutch and peel out. She wants to get under the hood, change the oil and fill 'er up. She wants to bank the dimly-lit curve, telephone polls racing by, windows down, radio up.
So much of Drive It Like You Stole It is automobile-related, it's a wonder GM hasn't optioned it for its next weekend sale-abration. A record backed-up by Daniels/Eno of Spoon [and recorded in, yes, the Garage in Austin], this power-punk dragrace zooms by at just over 26 minutes, a little over Two Minutes Per Track. Crewe loved her experience at Spoon Island so much she even wrote a song about it ("I've been thinking about leaving London / I've got friends in Austin").
So if Sally Crewe is your race-car driver, Spoon is her pit crew. The ever-popular trio is building a subgenre of sound, and their technique is rubbing off on other racing teams. It mostly fits Crewe and her Sudden Moves, although the facsimile is, at times, a little low on toner.
And perhaps we're overstating the auto metaphor, but consider these sample lyrical snippets: "Baby's got V8 power," "Ole Routemaster," "You're over / fake Range Rover," "Centre line," "On the motorway," "Parked in his driveway," "Green mica Jaguar," "Just driving around," "You don't want to race me," "Drive on the left hand side," "Got a car," "When your car won't start up," "Her mind's racing."
Now while cars and rock have always been tied at the hip, this is a bit much. (Though it does sound pretty good in my car).
There's more. Studio Spoon certainly owes some inspiration to new-wave breakouts the Cars. Ms. Crewe's "ABC (Waiting For You)" does echo Ocasek's "Drive": ("If you get too drunk / I'll take you home"). And, well, Gary Numan is melodically in here somewhere ("Here in my car...").
Even Crewe's home of Leeds is centre to a musical history you might not be aware of: Gang Of Four ("A Man With A Good Car"), Wedding Present ("Sports Car"), Chumbawumba, Mekons, Pram, Hood, etc., including the legendary act...Boyracer. And John Porter, a Leeds native, produced the Smiths self-titled masterpiece that includes the line "why ponder life's complexities when the leather runs smooth on the passenger seat." Ms. Crewe sings: "If my car had a back seat, we'd be in it."
And, if I'm not mistaken, I believe Gang of Four's David Allen helped propose Cadillac's Led Zeppelin campaign (the suits should have picked "Misty Mountain Hop," not "Rock And Roll." Hell, even "Hot Dog" might have been wiser).
So the music has some motorway references, big deal. But then there's Crewe on the cover, ready to drag race, standing next to an embankment, a number 12 on her t-shirt. The CD inlay is a treatment of a Mustang fastback. The music is even "under license" from Sally herself.
OK, maybe that's going too far. But the fact remains, the car thing starts to become quite the distraction.
As for the music itself, it's got Spoon all over it. That is, it's got Spoon all over it. Britt Daniels and Jim Eno play on every track. Daniels even contributes to the backing vocals and, while no Michael McDonald, it's still instantly recognizable. And sometimes it totally works.
Crewe's pop penchant draws comparisons to Belly, those pesky Cars and sometimes Leeds' own Soft Cell. "New wave on the parse pop tip". She plays in earnest, too. You wonder how she goes over in Leeds – after all, she does want to move to Austin.
It is no coincidence that Sally Crewe & The Sudden Moves are on British label 12XU, the new imprint started by one Gerard Cosloy, co-founder of Matador and Spoon's number one devotee.
I'll bet he's got a nice car.
By David Day