The intensity of the hype for Spielbergs’ debut full-length can initially be enough to catch anyone off guard, but it’s not as if it’s surprising or unwarranted. Sure, as a first impression, their Distant Star EP could feel unfortunately flat, but even among that, it was clear that it was the work of a band with a lot to offer, primarily the ability to turn a rather stale and stagnant indie-rock scene into something with a bit more open-ended style and panache. It’s hardly a shock that it resonated with plenty to the extent that it did, then, with the relatively quick turnaround time of This Is Not The End showing a band clearly looking to take their next big step forward with little hesitation. Even further into that, while it would be cause for concern for some (it’d be all too easy to name any number of bands rushing a debut album to capitalise on early hype), Spielbergs have always given the impression of having the creative energy to move ahead at a decent clip. The lead singles have already been a good indication of that, and keeping to that standard could see This Is Not The End become another success in a year that’s already been uncharacteristically strong for debut albums.
Saying that though, it needs to be stressed that comparing This Is Not The End to the very best debuts of this year does it no favours and highlights how much Spielbergs need to do to wholly reach that level. However, this definitely feels like an improvement on what they previously brought forward, sticking to the same train of ragged, ramshackle indie-rock but beefing it up slightly for something punchier and more pervasively infectious, giving the lyrical focus of formative experiences and young anxieties a much greater leg to stand on. The likes of NFL or Bad Friend are tackled with much more gusto that previously, letting guitars roar and squeal against cushions of feedback for the ground-level garage-rock vibe that’s always welcome of bands like this. Somewhat conversely, that leads to an album that sounds far bigger than its humble indie-rock roots would suggest, particularly on a track like You All Look Like Giants with its swirling walls of guitars and Mads Baklien’s untied but cutting shrieks. There’s clearly been an influence from rock’s biggest names this time round, in vision rather than sound, and if nothing else, it’s given Spielbergs the confidence to make a much fuller, ambitious release here.
Then again, they might have a bit too much confidence, as This Is Not The End isn’t averse to suffering from some of the bloat or lack of focus that its predecessor had. The worst offender is McDonald’s (Please Don’t Fuck Up My Order) as a meandering, barely alive shoegaze cut that wastes seven-and-a-half minutes for no discernible reason, but really, it’s whenever Spielbergs try their hand at a longer or more experimental pieces like Familiar or Forevermore that it becomes abundantly clear that they’re unable to hold levels of attention for that long. In the grand scheme of things it’s a relatively minor grievance – the fact that Spielbergs realise their biggest strengths lie in condensing their material down is one of this album’s biggest saving graces – but it’s moments of admirable but botched experimentation that weighs it this album down more than it should.
That said, if Spielbergs can reach a point where these moments can be tightened up or shaved down to a more reasonable size, the promises of greatness that have been bestowed upon them for a long time now could finally come to fruition. They’re certainly making considerable, noticeable steps in the right direction, and even if This Is Not The End remains slightly reticent to embrace their greatest traits fully, they’re putting in the work and the effort to really nail down where they want to go, and that’s respectable. So even if this debut isn’t one of the absolute best, it’s definitely good in a number of ways that matter, and if Spielbergs are willing to play the long game to get where they want, that’s a fine place to start.
For fans of: Superchunk, Japandroids, Beach Slang
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘This Is Not The End’ by Spielbergs is released on 1st February on By The Time It Gets Dark.