Of the Moments
Drag City

In an effort to exude the wonders that exist on Spur’s recently unearthed Of the Moments reel, I’m bypassing the usual “this is better than the average unearthed psych re-issue.” Drag City has, in a scant two years, had a sparklingly spotless run reissuing records of this ilk. None of it has been that out of the ordinary or even close to resembling what they release on a daily basis at Drag City, but for the most part, it has been just what the community clamoring for this stuff desires. Namely that’s been quality private press, impossible to find, albums of unknown, and usually untravelled, American psych bands, given new life in a simple and affordable package. Spur is no exception. In fact, it’s the type of record you wouldn’t feel gypped buying for $30-plus as a lavish import.

For purists, I’ll attempt to clarify. The Spur record, which had been going for thousands, if you ever actually saw a physical copy, was originally titled Spur of the Moment. Here, Drag City thought it necessary to trim the filler that may (or may not have) plagued that original record, partly because in researching the Bellville, Illinois quintet they found a treasure of unreleased tape that would perfectly complement and display the complete, unknown history of Spur. The band’s biggest asset, similar to that of Pisces, is that they were creating within a cultural bubble. If you think of the Midwest circa 1968, it would take quite a lot of word of mouth for trends and tradewinds from either coast to wind up penetrating the psyche of St. Louis (where Spur cut their teeth). And the band’s naivety as to what they were supposed to be playing, how they were supposed to look, who they were supposed to worship, is apparent. But in retrospect it doesn’t sound like they cared all that much, as Of the Moments’ variety is never singular or genre-generic, instead their wild range of influences and innovations seep into one another. The bubble Spur existed in was floating freely between post-British Invasion and pre-70s guitar-based excess.

At one end of the spectrum Spur could have likely hung with the best of the San Francisco free-jam scene. “Tribal Gathering/We Don’t Want to Know” is 14 minutes of intertwining psych trails, jazzed percussion and groove-based flows, but it also experiments through exotic Santana-esque patterns and surf-themed interludes. As an epic piece, it truly shows that Spur were prone to mixing their flavors without much restraint, a Quicksilver Messenger Service with a little more country and a lot more mind to push towards the future of psychedelic progress. I believe it was just part of their nature (and a product of their environment) to inject their solos and vocals with a tinge of twang. “Time Is Now” has that rough and tumble feeling that would soon intoxicate smoother country-rock travelers of the ’70s like Firefall, Poco and America. That said, a song like “Time is Now” doesn’t dwell on those elements for too long, instead exploring uncharted waters with multiple layers of atmosphere and loads of challenging playing poking through its veneer.

Of course, Spur’s first love was the radio hits of Hermann’s Hermits and the Hollies. “You Could Help Me Ease the Pain” is A.M. gold befitting placement on Odyssey and Oracle, and “All Over the World” might as well be a tribute to Buddy Holly in its sock-hop casualness. But, as the album does, Spur manages to evolve out of that cloned sense of homage, moving into grittier, advanced stages of primitive garage rock. “Mr. Creep” and “Mind Odyssey,” the first two tracks of the original Spur of the Moment, reek of a worn copy of Lenny Kaye’s initial Nuggets compilation. Is it because they were from Bellville that these never were sought? Or maybe it was their steadfast notion to evolve even past that stage, where again, everything begins to swirl and shift through a number of styles and shapes, never once reeling back the influence of the group’s increasingly magnificent guitar work. That eagerness to move forward is apparent in the double denouement of “Eight Days a Week,” a bluegrass bastardization of the Beatles song complete with slide guitar and a ghostly chorus drifting into the ether, and “Yield Not,” which sounds as if it was the bedrock for the boogie rock chooglers who would follow later in the decade, as it explodes into the heaviest, funkiest riffs on all of Of the Moments before reveling in a gospel-fueled finale. As is routine with Spur, you’re never quite sure which way they are going to spin, and for that alone this reissue is a welcome addition to a world that is beginning to feel the weight of too many reissues.
Kevin J. Elliott

MP3: “Mr. Creep”