The Springfields: Singles 1986-1991 (Slumberland Records)

The Springfields


The Springfields, I tells ya, they coulda been bigger than The Byrds

Illinois-based The Springfields came and went without much notice, save for the devoted indie-pop fans who loved Sixties-inspired music and tiny labels like Sarah Records and Subway Organization. Led by Ric Menck and Paul Chastain, the duo would go on to later acclaim as the venerated Velvet Crush. Singles 1986-1991 captures the formative years of a promising young band.  (Note: Singles is a de facto reissue of 1996 compilation The Ballad Of Ric Menck; said album has long been out of print.)

The duo began their life as the unfortunately twee name Choo Choo Train. But don’t let the name fool you; they released a few singles and one drop-dead perfect single, “This Perfect Day,” which leads off this compilation. It’s all twelve string guitar, tambourine and Beatles ’65 perfection, yet deftly produced in such a way that it sounds contemporary. The flipside, “Bicycle Song,” utilizes the same formula and produces the same amazing results. (The group would release two further EPs.)

In 1988, they thankfully renamed themselves The Springfields. Around this time the world started to appreciate jangly, slightly psychedelic 60s-inspired pop—whether it be from the West Coast’s Paisley Underground scene or the UK’s burgeoning indiepop and Madchester scenes. Thus, their debut single, “Sunflower,” wound up being released in the UK on the legendary Sarah Records. The pairing was a good one; the mopey melancholy of “Clown” and “Are We Gonna Be Alright” fit nicely with the label’s aesthetic of sleepy-eyed lovelorn indie pop.  Their second single for the label, “Wonder,” feels a little under-produced but even so gives The Stone Roses a run for their money. The flip side, a cover of Primal Scream’s “Tomorrow Ends Today,” is a scorching take.

Unfortunately, their next two singles, “She Swirls Around Me” and “Reachin’ For The Stars” find them retreading familiar sonic ground. The lone exception is “Tranquil,” a jangly number that ditches the retro pretentions and sounds positively contemporary. The band must have realized a change was in order; The Springfields soon morphed into the superb and influential Velvet Crush. Even with its brief life, The Springfields created some decent indie-pop before becoming one of the best bands of the 1990s.

Purchase: The Springfields Singles 1986-1991:  Amazon / Slumberland 

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