The concept of the ‘supergroup’ is relative and often abused. The formation itself is prone to suspicion, akin to selling out your bandmates in favour of some fresh thrills. Often it’s the point in a band’s career when the chief songwriter hits a stalemate or a stale state — ie: the last record didn’t do so well. Could you point that finger in the direction of anybody in Divine Fits? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t succumb to that kind of Transference.
Divine Fits is comprised of Britt Daniel from Spoon, Dan Boeckner from Wolf Parade, and Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks. You know, call me ignorant or maybe it’s a matter of too many bands and too few lifetimes but I wouldn’t be able to pull the last two out of a line-up or even hum one of their songs. Thus taking on A Thing Called Divine Fits purely as a waning Spoon disciple does seem to have more appeal than taking on the next Spoon album. Maybe these things can work both ways.
The songwriting on A Thing Called… is evenly divided between Boeckner and Daniel, the former taking a sinister Numan-esque prowl on opener “My Love Is Real” while Daniel follows with his atypical gruff howl and flagellating riffs on “Flaggin’ A Ride”. As disparate as those two tracks are, neither songwriter lingers in one corner too long. The tempos and moods shift track to track, from “Baby Get Worse” which shares the same syncopated rhythm as Robert Palmer’s “Some Guys Have All The Luck” to the simple acoustic read of “Civilian Stripes” that roughly amounts to Boeckner fronting Spoon for two and a half minutes.
The surprising cover (for an Australian band, no, for an American/Canadian band, yes) of Rowland S. Howard’s “Shivers” ends things on an awkward note. Lyrically it’s a teenage angst tune, not really the stomping ground for a trio of men in their late 30’s. As an Australian you cringe and ask “but why?”, and you can imagine Nick Launay, Nick Cave’s producer of choice for many a year, looking on in amusement as Daniel reduces the song to its basic parts, omitting the vocal hook that gave the original its vulnerability and charm.
It’s hard to deny Divine Fits their due. Even for people unaware of the back history of the songwriters involved, Divine Fits sound like a new band, not a couple of jaded musicians cutting themselves a break. With Boeckner’s synth-pop leanings and Daniel’s studied indie-rock chops — enough bases are covered to make A Thing Called Divine Fits a home run, and there’s more than enough on offer to silence the doubter and lure the new listener alike.