As almost anyone who keeps up with popular imusic knows, in the past few years there has been an explosion of new funk/metal groups, spearheaded by the success of Faith No More and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Spin Doctors are a lesser known band in this vein, but they should not be. Any band with this much talent doesn’t deserve obscurity.
“Pocket Full of Kryptonite,” this New York band’s first full-length album, shows a group that is ready to become a household word. The Doctors inject a healthy dose of bluesy rock, pop song-craft and a good sense of humor into the standard funk/metal formula. The result is an album which might better have been named “Instant Party.”
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The lead track, “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues,” is about a comic book love triangle (no extra points for guessing who’s involved) and it is also where the album’s title comes from. The funky “What Time Is It?” is reminiscent of James Brown. On “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” and “Two Princes” the Doctors show they can write a good tune. These two songs are excellent examples of danceable, guitar-based pop music. “Everything She Wants” is destined to become a future garage-band classic. Other tracks, like “Refrigerator Car” and the extended jam of “Shinbone Alley/Hard to Exist” are perfect for blasting on car radios, and show just how much the Doctors can rock out.
But the real hallmarks of this album are the two ballads, “Forty or Fifty” and “How Could You Want Him (When You Know You Could Have Me)?” The former is a flowing, jazz-based piece which shows the band’s musical maturity. The song’s chorus sounds slightly like Level 42 without keyboards. The latter song is a masterpiece of intelligent, honest pop song-craft. It features many literary references with direct emotional pleas. The verses almost make the song seem rooted in intellect instead of emotion, until the chorus comes along. You can almost hear the singer’s frustration when he sings the naively direct title phrase.
All in all, the Spin Doctors have created the ultimate party album with enough upbeat tracks to keep people dancing. It is also an ideal soundtrack for a late afternoon spent driving in the city. Either way, this is one disc you should definitely be giving a spin. n