The Districts – A Flourish and a Spoil

The path to success in the music business is littered with the carcasses of musicians that grasped for a little too much, far too early. Bands that attempted to graduate from the garage to the stadium on the back of a promising debut and the speculative flattery of the music industry.

Listening to The Districts second album, A Flourish and a Spoil, you get the feeling that they are well placed to avoid that fate. Hailing from Pennsylvania, their blog offers a simple declaration of what they are about: ‘we write honest music and are passionate about what we do’.  There was a time when that kind of earnest sincerity in Rock circles would have drawn scorn and ridicule – you get the sense that now, it might just be the thing that sees them through. They may be operating out of the increasingly sterile category that is indie guitar rock, but they are a cut above so many of their peers.

A Flourish and a Spoil is an incredibly assured sophomore effort, displaying a little of the brash confidence of early Arctic Monkeys. There is a freshness about their music, perhaps explained by the fact that the entire band are under twenty one. The musicianship is uniformly excellent and in vocalist Rob Grote they have an astute lyricist who can actually sing, as opposed to someone who just happened to be the one least reluctant to take on vocal duties.

In short, they are the complete package; raucous opening track ‘4th and Roebling’ sets the tone – a rumbling bass, Grote’s measured vocals rising in intensity when the inevitable wave of distorted guitars crash in.
Grote writes about growing up, everyday life in a small town, and he does it with an insightfulness that belies his relatively tender years. Producer John Congleton (Swans, Strand of Oaks) adds plenty of muscle on tracks like ‘Peaches’ and ‘Chlorine’ and any time the album threatens to get mired down in indie guitar stodginess, there is a vocal hook or little ‘wow’ moment to remind us that the Districts are not content to go down that route.

‘Suburban Smell’ offers compelling evidence that there is more to this band that college rock guitars but it is on the incredibly affecting closer ‘6 AM’ where the band plunder real magic right at the death. Over a fuzzed up acoustic backing track Grote sings ‘I’m still tugging on your hand, like when I was innocent,  We used to only lie when we needed sleep..’ in a voice that cracks and very nearly breaks.

It is a quietly powerful moment, easily missed but it’s in these moments that the Districts mark this territory as their own.  It could take a while but they might just be a band worth waiting for.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)