Gleaming Spires


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  

Les Bohem - vocals, bass, guitar, synthesizers

- Bob Haag - lead guitar, backing vocals

- Jimbo Goodwin -- keyboards
- David Kendrick - drums, percussion

 

  supporting musicians: 1985
- Greg Penny - synthesizers, guitar, backing vocals

- Bobby Moore - sax
- Donna Wylie -- trumpets
- Katia Empkowicz Penny -- backing vocals
- Patty Foley -- backing vocals
- Beau Wesley -- backing vocals
- The Happy Boy -- backing vocals
- The Party God -- backing vocals
- Fanny Penny -- backing vocals
- Jonathan Gold - cello
- Campbell Naismith - bagpipes

 

 

 

 

- Bates Motel (Les Bohem, Bob Haag, David Kendrick

- The Bosendorders

- The Call (Jimbo Goodwi)

- Devo (David Kendrick)

- Steve Gillette (Les Bohem)

- Sparks (Les Bohem, Bob Haag, Jimbo Goodwin)

- Speed Limit (Bob Haag)

- Visiting Kids (David Kendrick)


 

Genre: new wave

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Welcoming a New Ice Age

Company: Tabb

Catalog:  TGS-2
Year:
 1985

Country/State: Los Angeles, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3509

Price: $20.00

I guess it's somewhat odd that my introduction to Los Angeles' The Gleaming Spires came via their fifth and final album.  Shows you what a musical trend setter I've always been.  LOL

 

So, I knew of these guys due to the fact bassist Les Bohem and drummer David Kendrick had been the long serving rhythm section for Sparks.  I'm not the biggest Sparks fan which probably explains my late life decision to explore The Gleaming Spires. Anyhow, once I made the decision to engage, I have to admit the album's Sparks-styled cover art and the list of navel gazing song titles all served to inject a sense of dread.

 

Produced by Greg Penny with mixing credited to "Coolwhip" (welcome to the '80s when everyone eems to have had a tag), 1985's "Welcoming a New Ice Age" was a mixed success to my ears.  Musically it was kind of a schizophrenic effort with prime writers Boehm and Kendrick dividing their creative efforts across new wave territory ('What's Coming Next' and the plodding ballad 'Tearaway') and Sparks-styled material ('Unprotected' and 'No One Coming Over').  Add in more than a touch of Big Country ('Mercy' and 'Your Secret Room'), and it was certainly a diverse collection, but also kind of aimless. Exemplified by the title track and the sweet ballad 'Blowing Up My Life', their lyrics were quirky; maybe not quite as out there as The Maels, but definitely non-mainstream.  Given most folks don't pay a great deal of attention to lyrics (give me the beat), that probably didn't matter a great deal.  I actually enjoyed trying to figure the plotlines out.  Not that I've ever made much progress with this one.  On the other hand, Boehm had a nice, radio-friendly voice and compared to The Maels, these guys had a more conventional sense of melody which meant most of these eleven tracks were at least memorable.  You got the feeling they were interested in attracting a popular audience, while maintaining a distinctive, non-commercial edge.  And while this may sound kind of stupid, it's one of those albums that just doesn't have a fun feeling.  It wasn't exactly dour, but unlike Was(Not Was), you kept wishing these guys would have cut loose for a couple of minutes.   Okay, okay I'll admit the horn powered 'Bigger Than Life' was an exception to the rule.  Perhaps that's why they called it quits shortly after the collection was released.  Interesting enough or me to want to check out their earlier releases.

 

"Welcoming a New Ice Age" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Mercy   (Les Boehm - David Kendrick) - 3:51   rating: **** stars

A big, epic ballad, 'Mercy' sounded a bit like an LA version of Stuart Adamson and Big Country. That comparison was underscored by the song's "seriousness" and the "bagpipes" sound effects on the guitars.  Since I'm a Big County, I actually kind of liked this one.  It certainly had a nice hook.

2.) Welcoming a New Ice Age   (Les Boehm - David Kendrick) - 4:24   rating: **** stars

One of the things I do like about Sparks is their quirky lyrics and that happened to be characteristic Boehm and Kendrick shared with the Mael Brothers.   Those strange lyrics, coupled with a catchy top-40ish guitar figure made the title track one of the album highlights.

3.) Tearaway    (Les Boehm) - 4:39   rating: ** stars

Typical, stark, synthesizer washed '80s ballad.  Hyper-sensitive and kind of boring.

4.) No One Coming Over    (Les Boehm) - 2:33   rating: *** stars

Geez, who let The Maels in the studio?  If you were curious what influences Sparks had on these guys, then 'No One Coming Over' would be a good place to start.  The track was clearly one of the album's more pop-flavored performance, but it also had a pretty high quirky factor and the out-of-the-blue ending was kind of a shock.

5.) Your Secret Room    (Les Boehm)- 3:48   rating: *** stars

New wave country-rock?   Not sure who the female backing singer was, but she sounded like Emmy lou Harris.  The bagpipe solo was certainly strange.

 

(side 2)

1.) Bigger Than Life   (Les Boehm - David Kendrick) - 3:10   rating: **** stars

Powered by the "The Horns of Desire", 'Bigger Than Life' was the album's most overtly commercial track.  Kind of a Was(Not Was) feel to this one. 

2.) The Things I Have Done To Our Love   (Les Boehm - David Kendrick) - 3:58   rating: **** stars

Built on Kendrick's pounding drums, 'The Things I Have Done To Our Love' was a nice bar band rocker.  Yeah, the title and lyrics had a slightly ominous feel.  That may be why a couple of years later this one was featured on the soundtrack to the horror flick "The Horror Show".

3.) Blowing Up My Life   (Les Boehm - David Kendrick) -3:46   rating: **** stars

In spite of the downbeat lyrics, propelled by Jimbo Goodwin's organ fills, 'Blowing Up My Life' was the album's sweetest tune. The backing vocals were hysterical.

4.) What's Coming Next   (Les Boehm - David Kendrick) - 3:15   rating: *** stars

'What's Coming Next' opened  up with a bouncy, nervous new wave energy and simply never took it's foot of the accelerator.  Boehm's tuneful bass lines stole the show on this one.

5.) Unprotected   (Les Boehm) - 3:12   rating: ** stars

'Unprotected' was a stark, new wave-styled ballad.   I kept waiting for the song to breakout of its shell, but it never did.  Yeah, Boehm's vocals were heartfelt, but hearing the title over and over, you just felt like smacking him up the side of the face - "man up".   Real Sparks-feel to this one (which may, or may not be a good thing).

6.) Harm   (Les Boehm - David Kendrick) - 3:38   rating: *** stars

Hum, I seem to detect a touch of early XTC energy in these grooves (especially when the unleashed the harmony vocals).  'Harm' was certainly quirky and not immediately attractive, but it was also one of those tunes that snuck on you and wouldn't leave.  Jonathan Gould on psycho-cello.

 

After the band called it quits Bohem turned his attention to screenwriting and directing.

 

Kendrick joined Devo and then became a member of Visiting Kids.

 

Haag joined Speed Limit.

 

 

 

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