The Spears - Ghosts (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Spears

Ghosts (2018)

Rad Girlfriend

I'm a huge Pink Lincolns fan. They’re a great punk band from Florida that formed way back in 1986. As far as I know they never officially broke up, but they’ve been inactive for more than a decade. They were led by singer Chris Barrows and and used to pal around with Screeching Weasel and The Queers back in the ‘90s. (I probably discovered them from a split with one of those bands.) They were more aggressive than your standard pop punk fare, and took some cues from snotty hardcore. I never got to see them live, and they're definitely at the top of my bucket list. After Pink Lincolns went dark, Barrows went on to form The Spears with guys from DRI and Down By Law. They put out one great album called Shove in 2009. I liked that band a lot too, but I didn’t get nearly as attached to them.

I didn't realize that The Spears were still around, so Ghosts came as a pleasant surprise. Barrows still has his antagonistic, raspy howl, and is once again joined by Down By Law guitarist Sam Williams. He also recruited a bunch of guests including punk outcasts like Ben Weasel, Joe King (Queer), Greg Ginn, Rikk Agnew and He Who Cannot be Named. The thing that’s really great about The Spears is their attitude. It really takes me back to the time before punk became so mainstream in the mid ‘90s. It’s antisocial in the best kind of way. It says we won’t settle for the political and social scraps that we’ve we’ve been tossed. We have to live in this world, but you can’t force us to participate. It’s a breath of fresh air from the suffocating political correctness of modern ‘punk’.

Ghosts opens with the creatively titled instrumental “Instrumental". It lulls you for a few seconds with some mellow acoustic guitar before really kicking into gear. “Kikimo" is next, and continues the long Barrows tradition of giving songs a woman’s first name. “Born Bad" features indisputable genius and supposed heel Greg Ginn on guitar. A lot of The Spears songs could owe a musical debt to Black Flag. The riffs are often a combination of angular singles notes and chugging power chords. “55 Weeks" contrasts lead guitar melodies with an abrasive Barrows spoken word rant. “Apt. 28” is about the self loathing that comes with living somewhere horrible.

Side two has a memorable ode to mindless, thankless, unrewarding retail work in “Nametag". It has a drone-like organ riff that really drives the point home. “Alphaman" might be the most urgent sounding song on Ghosts with its rapid-fire surf guitar riff. “Not It" is probably the best song on the record. It features Ben Weasel and others. (It’s hard to identify all the voices without proper liner notes.) I love that The Spears include all these out of favor punks. (It’s not like this was going to go platinum. Fuck it. Get your unpopular friends involved.) “Uniform" addresses the pitiful conformity within the current punk scene. I can't help but agree.

The Spears didn't go out of their way to seem edgy, they just made a real punk album. It might sound unfamiliar to some of you. (The modern band I would best compare them to is Night Birds.) Ghosts is another fine record from Ohio based Rad Girlfriend Records. This relatively new label has been amassing an impressive list of bands and releases over the last few years. (They are also reissuing the Pink Lincolns classic Suck and Bloat on vinyl.) The Spears always felt like a slightly more metallic version of Pink Lincolns. If you miss PL as much as I do, this is the next best thing. My only complaint about Ghosts is that it’s not longer.