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Spike Priggen - The Very Thing That You Treasure

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 7 / 8 / 2002

Spike Priggen - The Very Thing That You Treasure
Label: Laughing Outlaw
Format: CD


"Excellent" debut album in the power pop genre and with strong Byrds influence from New York based singer/songwriter Spike Priggen

This is the debut album from New York based singer/songwriter Spike Priggen and yet another Laughing Outlaw release destined for that special shelf. That’s if you can leave it alone long enough to put it somewhere else other than the CD player. An apt title indeed. It’s been two years in the making ,but Priggen has delivered an excellent album firmly rooted in the power pop genre. Each track on this, from Priggen’s own unique form of garage power pop which is visible on a couple of the tracks ('Alright' and 'Look It Up'), to the tear jerking ballads which he excels at, is blessed with such great breath taking melodies that it’s surprising that it has taken him so long to come up with this album when he has such a remarkable talent. It’s even more surprising that we have not heard from Priggen before when we learn that he has a long and varied musical history. Far too long and varied to go into here but it is worth mentioning that along the way Priggen has played in bands along with Jon Brion (whose work with Aimee Mann is not a million miles away from some of the songs on this album) and Mark Mulcahy (Miracle Legion) and that he has also played and sang on an album by Malcolm Ross. Priggen’s list of names in the obligatory ‘thanks’ list in the record’s inlay also gives an indication of what to expect: Dave Schramm, The McCluskey Brothers, Roddy Frame and Freedy Johnston are just a few mentioned. It’s often been told that ex-Byrd Roger McGuinn, on hearing Tom Petty’s ‘American Girl’ for the first time, allegedly remarked that he couldn’t remember writing it. The song owed such a debt to the Byrds sound that McGuinn naturally thought it was one of his. He also thought enough of the song to cover it on his ‘Thuderbyrd’ album. Well, if McGuinn ever hears the opening track here, ‘Every Broken Heart’, he’s going to think that it’s come straight off his excellent ‘Back From Rio’ album. When McGuinn realises that he didn’t pen this one either maybe it will kick start him into covering that as well. The song starts with what can only be described as some gorgeous Byrdsian 12 string guitar and has a nagging melody that you can’t get out of your head after the first play. It ends with Priggen repeating the simple lines “Do you remember the things we used to love ? ”, and turning them into heart-breaking questions and statements. The impact is absolutely stunning. Priggen has surrounded himself with a group of musicians who really do his songs justice. They are all first class and, without diminishing the input of anyone involved, mention must be made of the contribution made to these songs by guitarist Jon Graboff who repeats the sterling work he did on Amy Rigby’s last album ‘The Sugar Tree’ here. He adds further brilliant 12 string touches to ‘Listening To Me’ as well as to other tracks. Priggen has produced an album of mainly sad songs mostly inspired by bad relationships but he has balanced out the slower tracks like ‘She Used To Be My Baby’ and ‘The Right Thing’ with the pure power pop of songs like ‘Yesterday’ and ‘What Yer Missing’. Usually on an album of contrasts like this one type of song would show the artist’s strength. The ballads would maybe just outshine the rockier songs or vice versa. That’s not the case with this album. Priggen’s songs are so melodic and throw up so many surprises both lyrically and sonically that it is hard not to love everything on this record. I have a problem, for example, with the word ‘outtasight’. For years whenever I see the word on paper it bugs me. I don’t know why. So when I saw that track six was titled ‘Outtasight’ it was at a major disadvantage as far as I was concerned. But as soon as that 12 string kicked in after a lovely acoustic intro and Priggen sang “Can’t seem to wipe the sleep out of my eyes” all prejudices disappeared. By the time the chorus of “Now you’re outtasight and I’m outta my mind” came around I’d completely changed my mind about the word. Again, Priggen closes the song by repeating the opening line over and over again to great effect. All of the tracks have been a favourite at different times so it is hard to pick out a standout song. It changes from the opening ‘Every Broken Heart’ to everything in-between that and the last song, ‘So Good To See You’, a strange psychedelic ballad full of weird effects and mellotron. Then if the player is not turned off after this last track and it is left to run for another 10 minutes an even weirder thing emerges. Firstly we are treated to a very strange, amusing and obviously fake commercial for a removal company and then we are into what is really an update of 'The Troggs Tapes' from years back. Basically it is a heated discussion in the studio over a song between the producer and musicians. Amusing for us but maybe not so funny for those involved at the time. But Spike Priggen need not worry about sprinkling any fairy dust over his songs the way The Troggs wanted to. They’re good enough already.

Track Listing:-
1 Every Broken Heart
2 Alright
3 She Used To Be My Baby
4 Yesterday
5 The Right Thing
6 Outtasight
7 What Yer Missing
8 Listening To me
9 Nothing
10 Look It Up
11 I'm In Love
12 So Good To See You

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Stars After Stars After Stars (2005)
Likeable album of often very obscure covers from New York based singer and Laughing Outlaw signing Spike Priggen

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