It's amazing that I, IV, and V still manage to retain any sort of vitality after so many decades of pop exploitation. If "Act Like You Know Me," the fourth track from Spike and The Sweet Spots' forthcoming Strange Breed, manages to avoid staleness, it's largely due to the appeal of its lead singer's delivery. Spencer Johnson's vocals, marked by a slight, Casablancas touch of distortion, are more playful, less cynical and self-consciously cool than the Strokes frontman ever was, carrying a call-and-response style melody all on his own (Editor-In-Chief Caleb Oldham, for the record, hears more Original Artyfacts psychedelia than Casablancas in Johnson's vocals).
Strange Breed prominently features Shannon of Shannon & The Clams on fifth track "Heartbreak," and (label) Randy Records has worked with Burger Records in the past, helping create a thriving, geography-bridging garage scene over the past few years. But conflating the Chicago lo-fi community with that of California/Burger/Hardly Art would be ignoring each of the groups' most appealing regional traits. Whereas Burger has long emphasized the rock side of the pop/rock spectrum, with harmony-driven distorted guitar work and 70s-heyday throwbacks, Chicago acts (from Todayshits to The Yolks to Spike and The Sweet Spots) frequently prioritize the more pop-oriented aspect of their songwriting: short, economical, two-minute tracks made up of chorus-like hooks and pulling on the power of melody as their primary appeal. "Act Like You Know Me," like many of its Chicago peer releases, may be a Katzian chiclet — that is, something instantly sweet if short-lived and somewhat disposable — but it's knowingly, intentionally so, embracing rather than scorning modern music-consumer habits (habits which, for the record, aren't all that new).
Randy Records, a key player in the Chicago underground, will release Strange Breed on September 25. The record can be pre-ordered at the label's website.