REVIEWS FOR WILD GOOSECHASE EXPEDITION
“It’s a good bet that whoever says there’s no such thing as an original idea — in music or otherwise — has not taken
a good close listen to Spottiswoode...Theatrical rock adventures...with elements of jazz, folk, Broadway and Leonard Cohen-style poetic musings... on _I’d Even Follow You to Philadelphia_, Spottiswoode croaks out what may be the best love song ever to channel the spirit of W.C. Fields....In an era of popular music that’s invariably pre-packaged and easily labeled, “Wild Goosechase Expedition is a small miracle -- and a trip worth taking. Pack your bug spray.”
“A perfectly executed concept album...nothing short of remarkable and after a dozen or so more spins is guaranteed a spot on my year-end list of favorite albums.”
Deli Magazine Best of NYC 2011
“The band knows how to tell a story, because they’ve probably lived it before you had your first drink. With a voice carv- ing a space between Warren Zevon and Ian Dury, Spottiswoode’s work takes you on a journey to a place inhabitated by hedonism and romance, but few regrets.”
New York Music Daily: The Fifty Best Albums of 2011
“The literate art-rocker’s critique of the perils of life during wartime is spot-on and amusing as well. This sprawling, psy- chedelic, Beatlesque effort is a career best, and the band is scorching.”
Gatehouse News: 21 Awesome Albums You May Have Missed in 2011
“Wild Goosechase Expedition, Spottiswoode and His Enemies: An ambitious, far-reaching 17-track song cycle — rife with elements of jazz, folk, Broadway and Leonard Cohen-style poetic musings — that may be nothing short of an analo- gy for life itself.”
“Seventeen tracks of diamond studded song writing,...”
Stephen Carradini/Independent Clauses
“A brilliant overview of pop music....fascinating...From the get-go, Spottiswoode pummels listeners with hook after hook.”
The Daily Vault, Jason Warburg
“If you mixed the laconic, cheeky British cool of Ian Hunter with the brooding urbanity of Leonard Cohen, added the balls-out Broadway showmanship of Bat Out Of Hell composer Jim Steinman, and sprinkled it all with the self-deprecat- ing panache of James Bond, you might emerge with Jonathan Spottiswoode’s less interesting twin brother, because he’s clearly more demented than that.”
Heaven Magazine, Pieter Wijnstekers
“Since we spotted the phenomenal Brit operating out of New York, Jonathan Spottiswoode, five years ago (then with multi-instrumentalist Riley McMahon as S&M) we have been a fan of this determined Englishman. He consistently proves his knowledge of the classics (from Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen to Van Morrison and Ray Davies) and seam- lessly adds a new spin to it. With his supporting band, His Enemies, Spottiswoode explores the more folk/pop-type elements of his music on the new “Wild Goosechase Expedition,” which is supported by beautiful (wind instrument) arrangements and perfectly fitting rock-like beats. It gives the long, four-piece concept album a very unique character that – as you can see by the somewhat “Sgt. Pepper” looking cover – could be given homage to the Beatles, but musically it goes its own direction with little Beatle-esque qualities.”
Oliver di Place
“...Bo Diddley beats, chiming guitars, jazzy excursions, even some things that border on world music from an unknown tribe. Spottiswoode ties all of this together with his vocals. He sings in a slightly scratchy baritone, and he is one of the most passionate singers I know of. “
“Spottiswoode and His Enemies move seamlessly from Leonard Cohen style folk singing to Nick Cave style dark post- punk to humorous Randy Newman style lounge songs. Sometimes all of these transitions take place in one song.”
Time Out NY
“You can hear songwriter Spottiswoode’s English origins in his accent, which sounds like a roughed-up version of Ray Davies. Similarly, the music suggests such messy Brit romantics as Syd Barrett and Art Brut.”
“Spottiswoode has a real knack for writing smart memorable catchy pop tunes that could easily appeal to millions of listeners.”
iSPY Magazine, Aimee Mandle
“After listening to the album several times through, I couldn’t help but think that this should have been the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous.”
Daily Freeman , David Malachowski
“Spottiswoode holds court in a world that is both lost and grand, a surreal, carnival place that is never boring.”
American Pancake , Adler Bloom
“The most whimsical piece on the record is the title track Wild Goosechase Expedition. It is a dynamic full tilt nightmare waltz of a song that feels at times, like a dixieland jazz band falling down the stairs. It is charming, funny, inventive and feels like a sound track to some Tim Burton movie....Wild Goosechase Expedition ends with You Won’t Forget Your Dream that is appropriately dreamy in tone. It also rocks like hell and the last third of the song has a blustery incredible trumpet solo and then an over the top response by piano that absolutely raises the bar. It is a fitting end to a spectacular album.”
Spottiswoode & His Enemies’ new album Wild Goosechase Expedition is a throwback to those great art-rock concept albums of the 70s: Dark Side of the Moon, ELO’s Eldorado, the Strawbs’ Grave New World, to name a few. And it ranks right up there with them: if there is any posterity, posterity will view this as not only one of the best albums of 2011 but one of the best of the decade.
Songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Spottiswoode calls this his Magical Mystery Tour. While the two albums follow a distantly parallel course in places, the music only gets Beatlesque in its trippiest moments. Ostensibly it follows the doomed course of a rock band on tour, a not-so-thinly veiled metaphor for the state of the world today. Most of this is playful, meticulously crafted, Britfolk-tinged psychedelic art-rock and chamber pop – the obvious comparison is Nick Cave, or Marty Willson-Piper.
Fearlessly intense, all over the map stylistically, imbued with Spottiswoode’s signature sardonic wit, the spectre of war hangs over much of the album, yet there’s an irrepressible joie de vivre here too. His ambergris baritone inhabits the shadows somewhere between between Nick Cave and Ian Hunter, and the band is extraordinary: lead guitar genius Riley McMahon (also of Katie Elevitch’s band) alternates between rich, resonant textures and writhing anguish, alongside Can- dace DeBartolo on sax, John Young on bass and Konrad Meissner (of the Silos and, lately, the Oxygen Ponies) on drums. As much lush exuberance as there is in the briskly strummed title track, Beautiful Monday, there’s a lingering apprehen- sion: “Hoping that one day, we’ll be truly free,” muses Spottiswoode. It sets the tone for much that’s to come, including the next track, Happy Or Not, pensive and gospel-infused. Slowly cresendoing from languid and mysterious to an- themic, the Beatlesque Purple River Yellow Sun follows the metaphorically-charged trail of a wide-eyed crew of fossil hunters. The first real stunner here is All in the Past, a bitter but undeterred rake’s reminiscence shuffling along on the reverb-drenched waves of Spottiswoode’s Rhodes piano:
I was young not so long ago
But that was then and you’ll never know
Who I was, what I did
How we misbehaved
Who we killed
I’ll take that to the grave
The song goes out with a long, echoing scream as adrenalizing as anything Jello Biafra ever put on vinyl.A bolero of sorts, Just a Word I Use is an invitation to seduction that paints a hypnotic, summery tableau with accordi- on and some sweet horn charts. A gospel piano tune that sits somewhere between Ray Charles and LJ Murphy, I’d Even Follow You To Philadelphia is deliciously aphoristic – although Philly fans might find it awfully blunt.
The gorgeously jangly rocker Sometimes pairs off some searing McMahon slide guitar against a soaring horn chart, contrasting mightily with the plaintive Satie-esque piano intro of Chariot, a requiem that comes a little early for a soldier gone off to war. It’s as potent an antiwar song as has been written in recent years.
All Gone Wrong is a sardonic, two-and-a-half minute rocker that blasts along on a tricky, syncopated beat. The world has gone to completely to hell: “They got religion, we got religion, everything’s religion,” Spottiswoode snarls. Problem Child, with its blend of early 70s Pink Floyd and folk-rock, could be a sarcastic jab at a trust fund kid; Happy Where I Am, the most Beatlesque of all the tracks here vamps and then fades back in, I Am the Walrus style.
This is a long album. The title track (number twelve if you’re counting) might be an Iraq war parable, a creepy southwest- ern gothic waltz tracing the midnight ride of a crew who seem utterly befuddled but turn absolutely sinister as it pro- gresses: it’s another real stunner, Meissner throwing in some martial drum rolls at the perfect moment. All My Brothers is a bluesy, cruelly sarcastic battlefield scenario: “Only the desert understands, all my brothers lie broken in the sand – freedom, freedom, freedom.” The satire reaches a peak with Wake Me Up When It’s Over: the narrator insists in turning his life over to his manager and his therapist. “Don’t forget to pay the rent...tell me who’s been killed, after all the blood’s been spilled,” its armchair general orders.
McMahon gets to take the intensity as far as it will go with The Rain Won’t Come, a fiery stomping guitar rocker that wouldn’t be out of place on Steve Wynn’s Here Come the Miracles. The album ends on an unexpectedly upbeat note with the one dud here and then the epic, nine-minute You Won’t Forget Your Dream, a platform for a vividly pensive trumpet solo from Kevin Cordt and then a marvelously rain-drenched one from pianist Tony Lauria.
All together, these songs make the album a strong contender for best album of the year; you’ll see it on our best albums of 2011 list when we manage to pull it together, this year considerably earlier than December.”
Aiding & Abetting – Jon Worley
The “enemies” are back, and Spottiswoode has crafted another full set of songs. Seventeen in all, grouped under four headings (as if this were some of a soundtrack for a novel or movie by the same title). That sort of preciousness often comes off as pretentious, but Spottiswoode has always managed to avoid that problem. Rather, the songs are gloriously eclectic, from the resplendent first track, “Beautiful Monday,” to the burbling ramble of the title track. The songs traverse a huge range, with the unifying traits being Spottiwoode’s vocals—and his acerbic wit. But even with his offhanded delivery and cutting lyrics, Spottiswoode has always managed to come across as sincere. This astounding feat is one reason he has attracted his significant underground fan base, though it is also probably the reason his music will never leap into the mainstream. As usual, Spottiswoode put as much effort into the music as he did his striking lyrics, and the result is one more fabulous album. I can understand why this stuff might freak out some folks, but for me it has become mother’s milk.”
Here Comes The Flood
“Wild Goosechase Expedition is the follow-up for double whammy release by Spottiswoode & His Enemies of the That’s What I Like and Salvation albums in 2008. While those two records could be divided into a party and a mellow col- lection of songs, this one is more serious. The Enemies are in full swing. Think Jarvis Cocker with a band that is cross between The Pixies and The Band.
Spottiswoode’s observations are draped in wall-to-wall arrangements (I’d Even Follow You To Philadelphia), sad pedal steel (Problem Child) and angry trumpets (Wake Me Up When It’s Over).Happy Or Not and Chariot, two songs of his solo album get a second outing with mixed results. The solo “Happy” is more to the point, while the band version Chari- ot is more melancholic, with touches of brass. The songs are divided into four themes, but never mind that. Wild Goose- chase Expedition is an album that flows as a concept album about loss and getting older. Luckily Spottiswoode is aging well.”
In Tune, Daily News PA, Jeffrey Sisk
4 1/2 STARS (out of 5) Wild Goosechase Expedition, their first record in three years, is nothing short of remarkable and after a dozen or more spins is guaranteed on my year-end list of favorite albums.”
Burlington (VT) 7 Days
Ithaca Times – Luke Fenchel
But the real find in a diverse schedule is a band called Spottiswoode & His Enemies, who make their Ithaca debut Satur- day, April 16. Fronted by a charismatic Brit who channels the songs of Cole Porter through a sexy voice reminiscent of Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, the band has been profiled on NPR’s “Weekend Edition,” appeared on “World Café,” has had resi- dencies at Joe’s Pub, the Living Room and the now defunct Féz, and has more local musical connections than Whoopi Goldberg. If you like the Beatles, rock and roll, cabaret pop, lyrics, humor, real emotion and/or music, it’s worth stopping by the show.
The band promoting its first album since the 2008 double release that marked their tenth anniversary. Called “Wild Goosechase Expedition,” the record is an epic collection of songs that showcase strong lyrics and solid songwriting. “This is the most like our first record,” Jon Spottiswoode said by phone. “I hadn’t liked being considered eclectic, so the next few records we did were more focused. We did a more gospel record, and then a cabaret pop record. And then a more folksy Americana album...this brings it all together.”
The band released its first record in 2001, an eponymous work that was equally expansive. The gospel influenced “Build- ing a Road” followed, as did the more folksy “Salvation.” Spottiswoode himself has two solo CDs, 1999’s “Ugly Love” and the intimate “Piano 45.” He also has written and produced a gothic opera called “Above Hell’s Kitchen,” which his band performed last October at the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
Though the solo records could be considered more intimate, emotional and direct, what’s most striking about Spottis- woode is his talent at balancing individual songs and albums in a way not common to any contemporary pop music. “I write lots of songs, and the band makes the song sound better than I imagine. A song is a song, but I’ve found that my band is the best laboratory for my work.”
Bronwen Exter, who released an album including 14 songs written by Spottiswoode, and whose cover of “Trust What You Feel” appeared prominently in the movie “She’s Out of My League,” cited him as a creative inspiration.
“He’s definitely been the biggest influence in my songwriting, especially in terms of how I think of arranging songs,” sing- er and songwriter Exter said. “He writes as if the band is his instrument.”
Jen Middaugh, who sings with the Sim Redmond Band and is also a member of Exter’s band, who will open for Black is Green at the Nines Friday, April 15, also worked with Spottiswoode before moving back to Ithaca.
“[Spottiswoode is] probably one of the most prolific songwriters I know. His music seems effortless but he’s a stickler when it comes to his lyrical phrasing. He’s a magnetic storyteller and fearless performer. The period of time I spent sing- ing with his band has to have been one of the highlights of my musical career,” Middaugh wrote by email.
“Jen is an amazing singer, and she played with us for a while for a few shows in New York, a few in DC, and in France,” Spottiswoode said. “[The] next thing I knew she was with this great band [in Ithaca], and was traveling to Japan. Often one of best things people can do is leave New York. If not specifically for a career, then for their songs,” he continued.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt one’s music career to stop by Ithaca. Whether you’re looking for a wild goose chase or just hap- pen upon one, chances are you’ll like what you hear.”