Spear of Destiny

Grapes of Wrath

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Year zero for perhaps the most underrated but nevertheless truly great British band of the 1980s. Particularly across their first three albums, Spear of Destiny did absolutely everything you could have asked of them beyond one. They didn't sell records in the quantities that they deserved, and while countless lesser lights streaked past them to fame, glory, and The Joshua Tree, Spear foundered in the lower reaches of the Top 50, then faded away. This, their debut album, reminds listeners of precisely how unjust that fate was. Although much of Grapes of Wrath was demoed (in none too dissimilar form) during the last days of Theatre of Hate, and subsequently released as that band's Ten Years After archive collection, still there is no doubt that this is a new birth in every sense. The opening "The Wheel" is everything that Theatre of Hate aimed at but always fell just a little short of delivering, a rousing rallying call that lifted roofs on the far side of the town. It was a trick that Kirk Brandon would perfect on Spear's second album, but even in embryonic form, it startles. "Flying Scotsman," "Solution," "The Murder of Love," "Grapes of Wrath" -- each track slips perfectly formed from the vinyl, a throbbing wall of clattering drums, inspirational sax, throbbing rhythms, and maddening war whoops. Live, Spear of Destiny were the greatest party you ever attended, as five of the eight bonus tracks prove. And on vinyl, they were the greatest visitors, transforming the drabbest one-room apartment into a seething, soaring celebration of anything -- absolutely anything -- that you thought was worth celebrating. And, again, this was only the beginning. A year of solid gigging would bring the band back even bigger and better than ever, and the only question is...how was that even possible?

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