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Spain - Spirituals: The Best of Spain

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Spain - Spirituals: The Best of Spain

Spain treats every note of its meditative songs like a sacrament, examining, savoring and moving on with the deliberate calm of a guru. Bandleader Josh Haden’s attempt to find introspection and spirituality in a simple, blues-based rock context was admirable—heroic even—but only partially successful. Haden’s formative experiences playing Minutemen-influenced punk sent him repenting in the opposite direction. Having exhausted “loud and brutalizing,” he wanted to see how far “subtle and dirge-like” would take him. On his best tunes (“Spiritual,” “Untitled #1”) Haden molds time into a horizon of revelation; a chapel of self-examination and unexpected discoveries. But the self-imposed limitations begin to feel like a monastic vow—impressive, to be sure, but not always practical. The 16 tracks on Spirituals show Spain to be one of the few bands since The Velvet Underground to back themselves into rock’s essential moral framework. The result was some of the most unique and affecting music of the ’90s, but you can’t help but wonder what a band with that much talent would have sounded like if Haden ever decided to come back down from the mountain.

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