Spike Fuck: “The Smackwave” EP Review

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Written By: Anthony Hamilton

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Singer-songwriter Spike Fuck turns down the guitar and dusts off the synthesizer for her debut album, The Smackwave EP. Picking up where David Bowie and Leonard Cohen left off, Spike Fuck smears dark lyrical themes over glittery synth-pop. Dealing with transsexualism, addiction, love, and isolation, she explores highs and lows of the human condition with a paradoxically contained fervor strong enough to leave listeners biting their nails for days after the 20 minute EP ends.

“Junkie Logic,” kicks off the album with equal parts strength and shimmer. The opening bass note glides into a punchy drum machine, on top of which the guitar and synth shine together with effortless beauty until Spike Fuck’s post-punk vocals come in to steal the crown. She cleverly describes a love-hate relationship with heroin as if it were some kind of wicked step-mother. “Even when I was kicking she was so understanding” she wraps up the first verse before launching into the album’s first understated chorus with Elyse Beer’s accompaniment of her own chilling vocals. Together they describe loss of love, self, and friends “to constant drug use.” Though the track could have been a woe-is-me cry for attention, the songwriter retains a certain sense of tongue in cheek humor about her recovery process, even seeming defiantly optimistic at times. The ironic, single line, double-entendre “..I know heaven won’t want me until I’m clean” speaks volumes about Spike Fuck’s abilities, both as a songwriter and as an individual. With no holds barred “Junkie Logic” tells the true story of recovery; it shows us the judgmental glare of people who were once friends; it shows the weight loss, the self-loathing, the isolation and despair. For better or for worse “Junkie Logic” portrays this side of recovery from the brazen eyes of the addict, with the bone rattling honesty of a long, cold look in the mirror.

“Guts” opens up with a thick wash of synth chords and vocals reminiscent of Bowie’s “Heroes.” Spike Fuck goes on to wax romantic. The dangerously sentimental chorus, backed by ‘ooh’s and ‘ahh’s paints a cloudy snapshot of a past relationship on the beach- imagery as tense and nervous as it is beautiful. This ages old theme of lost love takes on a fresh sense of tangible immediacy through the delivery of lines such as “I just lie here thinking about it. I never ever get over it.” Her voice quivers on the verge of a breakdown through repetition of “salty water in my eyes.” The singer meditates on this line until “it’s just water in my eyes” takes on a connotation more of wave break than of heartbreak, bringing the song to a resolution of peaceful apathy.

The album’s most energetic (though still far from upbeat) track, “Tomorrow We Get Healthy” starts by teasing listeners with a Salt’n’Peppa-esque drum track before working in what has by this point been established as Spike Fuck’s signature synth sound. Most notably, the track features sparse but powerful power chords from a distorted guitar which place emphasis on the warning that the lyrics issue. The singer understands and furthermore encourages her lover leaving her, admitting, “there’s another person in me… …and they’ll take all of your money and they’ll waste all of your time.” This track ends up taking on a tone of pious confessionalism far more righteous than one might expect. Spike Fuck walks such a fine, introspective line acknowledging her darker side and forgiving herself just soon enough to not be held back from self-improvement.

Tending much more towards live instrumentation than towards synth sounds, “3:30 Psychosis” brings the album to a close just a bit too soon. The electric organ and mention of angels at the outset of the song force it to take on a hymnal quality which create the effect of a ceremonial departure. After each brief verse the vocal duet of Spike Fuck and Elyse Beer joins in a deceptively beautiful refrain. Lines that may initially seem lewd or campy cleverly take on additional meanings as the song progresses in a surprising way. The song ends after one last refrain, not quite dwelling on it, but simply allowing it to linger in a way that leaves the album open ended in a very appropriate way.

While The Smackwave EP could have succeeded on a gimmicky, synthesized dress-up of worn out songwriting, Spike Fuck utilized her unique sound, rather than relying on it. Her ethereal sounds, reminiscent of decades past, provide the perfect context for her deep introspection and even help to elevate the album to being transformative in an almost religious way. Infinitely larger in its impact than in its format, The Smackwave EP’s perfect blend of cleverness and raw emotion demands the attention of anyone who appreciates real songwriting.