It's really too bad. In a time where there are very few bands playing even halfway decent pop-rock type music, Socratic seemed to be one of the few that could pull it off. Their first full-length for Drive-Thru, Lunch for the Sky seemed to effortlessly pair cynical lyrics with upbeat piano melodies and some jazzy breaks here and there. It was nothing groundbreaking, but was enjoyable and had some extremely memorable tracks. Now with Spread the Rumors, they seem to have lost the appeal they once had.
The first notable difference is the lyrics. Whereas Lunch for the Sky had such clever phrases as "Everyday when I leave my house / I water my grass / The lawn sings and assures me / To have a nice day while you can afford it / Soak up the sun before they make you buy it" (from "B to E"), Spread the Rumors is bogged down with lackluster lyrics like, "When I was younger I was not concerned with much of anything at all / I got picked up by everyone around me/ I was not allowed to fall" (from "Constant Apology"). The poetically negative tone is gone from the lyrics and has been replaced by simple rhymes and ambiguous statements. Tracks like "Janis Joplin Hands" and the aforementioned "Constant Apology" seem to say nothing at all in their time, with the latter obnoxiously repeating the title over and over for the chorus. Sadly, the lyrics were a lot of what originally made Socratic a bit refreshing, giving Spread the Rumors an immediate disadvantage.
As for the musical side of it, not a whole lot has changed. There are still peppy piano melodies ("May I Bum a Smoke") and a few moments of musical experimentation (see the second half of "Don't Say"). However, the band seems afraid to hit a big chorus like those that were all over Lunch for the Sky. The songs build up but only have minorly different choruses that make the songs drag on ("This Opinion of Mine," "Spread the Rumors"). Also gone are the hints of jazz/samba that showed up on tracks like "The Doctor" and "Spots I've Been and Go" (from Lunch for the Sky).
When they slow down it's pretty hit or miss. "Long Distance Calls" would represent the miss of that statement. With pretty unsatisfying lyrics about family seperation ("Everyone is working hard / Mother's got a shit job / Daddy got a blow job / Divorce ain't free") sung in a painfully nasally tone, the track falls flat on its face. However, "Diamond in a World of Coal" is one of the highlights of the album. The first half takes the piano ballad approach but when the full band comes towards the end it feels like the album has released the built-up tension. However, "Diamond" comes in at track 11, and at 12 tracks the album can't capitalize.
There are some mildly rewarding tracks, despite the pitfalls of most of the album. The opening track, "Boy in a Magazine" has a decent chorus and is catchy but not shallow. "Diamond in a World of Coal" feels like it has some of the spirit left over from Lunch for the Sky. "Don't Say" is a solid little ditty with some of the better musicianship on the album.
Ultimately though, the four or five good tracks aren't enough to make up for the mediocre ones. Socratic was never really a band that was meant to make you a hardcore fan. Lunch for the Sky was enjoyable and relaxing as a no-frills album. Spread the Rumors can't seem to capitalize on the solid successes of its predecessor, which is disappointing, but not heartbreaking. There is nothing to say that Socratic don't have another enjoyable full-length in them, but as far as Spread the Rumors goes, it just isn't their day.