Spiders & Snakes - Hollywood Ghosts

Spiders and Snakes is a band formed around the nucleus of L.A 'legends' Timothy Grey and Lizze Jay and they are an interesting if somewhat awkward proposition. Hollywood Ghosts is the latest offering from this shapeshifting ensemble with a 20 odd year career behind them.

Career, albeit what it is, maybe a too grandiose a word in all honesty. Odyssey may be a much more fitting description what has brought them to this point. I say that with not one bead of cynisism. This band are a unique proposition and the fact that they are not a global phenomenon is much more to do with the fact that they are far too intelligent to register with the bulk of the rock public. Neither is it a swipe at the average rock fan, it's just that this band are much cleverer than you. And there in lies the problem.

This band are so off the scale that you cannot imagine kids simply rocking out to them on the dance floor of some sleazy Friday night out on Sunset. They are the kind of band that have remained a secret becuase their fans demand they remain so. I used to have friend who had some unseen Ali Gee sketches. They were positively subservise and it was quite obvious why they never made the series. However every Friday we would all gang up on her and beg her to have a screening after the pub. She once stated that she felt like she owned a piece of banned art and we all felt like we were in some elite secret society because we were in on it, we knew about it and had a knowledge that the majority of people would never have. Spiders and Snakes are the musical equivilent of the secret Sasha tapes and they are a fantastic secret.

Ascension is basically a nonsense intro to the first real track, 'American Baby' a wham bam set opener with little real impact other than its pace and energy. However, it is followed by 'Angeline', a song that simply glistens with clever time changes and Cheap Trick-esque quirkiness. Ezuff Z Nuff most hate this band. Next up is the eponymously titled 'Spiders and Snakes', the weird thing being that a band that is 20 years old should choose now to name a song after themselves. Who cares! It's great. Full of swinging harmionica and Beefheart drum patterns. You have to smile at a song about a teenager trying to scare his girl with a frog while down at the creek. 'Freeway' is so ironic it sounds like a band sending up The Flower People by Spinal Tap. How far out is that? Is it possible to push that joke any further? Apparently so. Right up to 11 it seems. 'Siamese Twins' sees this band right back in Cheap Trick territory. However, there is a huge doff of the cap to Sparks going on here. Its practically Vaudeville. This album gets even more insane when we reach 'Bills Big Cigar'. We are already flirting with the humour of Tap, the pop sensibilities of Cheap Trick and the loonacy of Sparks, when they decide to throw some white album era Beatles into the mix. It is truly glorious. A song about a a guy with a big knob who goes around seducing posh chicks, basically. Then, as if to spoil things, they throw in a lame brained version of 'The Girl Can't Help It' Why? The wobble unfortunately continues here with 'Someday', a pastiche of Cats in the Cradle by Jim Croche, via UKJ. This track sounds like it was the favourite of someone's girlfriend or a dead friend and it appears more by sentiment than by design. The guitars are cool in a Byrds kinda way but it is the only realdog turd on an exceptionally fruity cake.

'Just Me' goes a long way to steadying the ship. A beautiful and thought out melody sitting on top of another sixties tinged 12 string guitar riff. It's delicate and funny, and once more makes you want to protect this band from the philistine ears that would miss the point entirely. Not sure about the bag pipes at the end though. A bit too much of the Mull of Kintyre about it by then. The penultimate track, 'Waiting for me in L.A.' once again finds Spiders and Snakes wading into the soothing warm waters of Southern California. It is a place they are comfortable. Non threatening, thoughtful and easy to appreciate. It's not the winner on this album by any measure but it adds to a picture painted by this quite exceptional band. The final cut is ironically called 'Get Outta Here'. It again lends heavily from Cheap Trick but with a 20 career behind them I would suspect 'Trick have taken more than a chord sequence from Spiders and Snakes over the years. Once more, the only issue with this track is the seemingly needless inclusion of bagpipes. We all know that the Irish invested the bagpipes and sold them to the Jocks as a joke. They are the noise from the devil's own bottom and the less they are heard the sweeter the air around you. Believe me.

Spiders and Snakes are a very special little band and long may they remain a very special little band. Maybe that is the only tragedy.

by Alex Carling

Visit the Spiders & Snakes Website