What I’m listening to: Divine Fits

Spoon + Wolf Parade “supergroup” super rages

In general, I’m a big fan of inter-band collaborations. The 2011 Mister Heavenly record (featuring Nick Diamonds of Islands, Honus Honus of Man Man, and Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse) was one of my faves of the year; the 2009 Monsters of Folk record (featuring Conor Oberst, M. Ward, Jim James and Mike Mogis) might be one of my faves of the decade. So naturally I was pumped to learn about Divine Fits, the new indie “supergroup” composed of Spoon’s Britt Daniel + Wolf Parade/The Handsome Furs’ Dan Boeckner, with New Bomb Turks’ Sam Brown on drums. (I use the term “supergroup” in quotes here because while Spoon seems legendary to us, to the rest of the world they’re but a utensil used to eat soup.)

Formed on a lark between mutual friends Boeckner and Daniel, Divine Fits quickly evolved into a full-fledged band late last year, releasing their first single (the fantastically catchy “My Love Is Real”) in early summer. Now just 3 months later they’ve readied their debut record, A Thing Called Divine Fits—which you can stream right now via NPR.

Spoon and Wolf Parade fans will both find plenty to love here, from Daniel’s smart, spiky vocals and ear for melody to Boeckner’s trademark high-stakes wailing and synths. But at the same time, Divine Fits is more than just the sum of its parts, playing to both songwriters’ strengths to create something forceful and unrelenting.

The record kicks off with aforementioned killer single “My Love Is Real,” a quivering, electric grower with sparse drumming and fat bass licks over which Boeckner insists, over and over: “My love is real…until it stops”—the sudden cut-off jarring the listener, much like the news of the Furs’ split last May. Boeckner admits that writing the record was “cathartic”—could this then be a reaction to their demise? (No official word yet on whether the split coincided with Boeckner splitting from his wife/co-Fur Alexei Perry.)

The clappy, stomp-y “Flaggin a Ride” is next, Daniel’s sputter-y, nervy vocals conjuring a synthier “The Way We Get By”—while follower “What Gets You Alone” is a high-strung, adrenaline-fueled rager.  “Would That Not Be Nice” adds a dash of uptown sexy to Daniel’s sparse, sharp melodies—and “The Salton Sea” (which, btw, is in SoCal, where the band recorded Fits) juxtaposes its twitch-y beat with sweeping, choral vocals.

There’s an urgency that runs throughout the record, made evident in frenetic synths, punchy drums and impassioned, frenzied vocals. Themes of shattered love and romantic uncertainty recur as well— from “What Gets You Alone”’s frustration that “I’ll never, never, never know what gets you alone” to “For Your Heart”’s uneasiness with “searching in the dark.”

“Baby Gets Worse” is a record highlight, Boeckner’s edgy vocals resolving into a chorus of major chords and poppy synths—while “Civilian Stripes” adds a layer of vulnerability, with strummed guitar and gentle keys underscoring the tenderness of a narrator who can never “get it right.” But it’s a cover of The Boys Next Door’s “Shivers” that really packs an emotional punch, Daniel tonguing lines like “I've been contemplating suicide...but it really doesn't suit my style” with plaintive melancholy. Indeed the one criticism you could level at Divine Fits is that so many similarly-pitched, frenetic rockers tend to run together, so this is a nice change of pace, the brooding post-punk guitars providing a moment of angst that feels achingly real.

As for the comparisons to Boeckner’s and Daniel’s other projects? Boeckner doesn’t mind…as long as it doesn’t mean fans trivializing Fits as a result.

“People will undoubtedly see elements of Spoon or Handsome Furs in what we do, but I hope that people will see the videos of us performing live and come to realize that this band is really its own thing,” says Boeckner to Stereogum. “Divine Fits is my main deal.”

Stream A Thing Called Divine Fits for free via NPR; then scoop it up August 28 on Merge.

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