CD Review: Spitalfield’s Better Knowing… ambitious and well developed

For the last several years, Spitalfield’s hometown record label, Chicago’s Victory Records, has touted them as the next Jimmy Eat World. Though lyrically creative and sonically intriguing, Spitalfield’s previous efforts—2003’s Remember Right Now and Stop Doing Bad Things in 2005—have left them short of that reaching highly desirable status.

With 2006 slowly darkening, their latest effort has come into the spotlight…and it is a spotlight that is well deserved. Better Than Knowing Where You Are is easily the Chicago quintet’s most ambitious and well developed to date. It is an album inspired by time spent in the tour van, crossing back and forth across the country. Singer/songwriter Mark Rose captures the emotions of loving life on the road, but simultaneously yearning for “home” to be somewhere a little more stable, with someone a little more consistent. Through songs like “Hold On” and the record’s title track, Rose expresses the blurred emotions brought on by being surrounded by bandmates he loves, but still being unable to touch the lover he left behind.

The album’s final track “…Listen” offers further insight into the juxtaposition of thoughts, offering the notion that even the definition of “home” is one that is yet to be written. Rose sings:

“I’ve got wheels on my bedroom floor and oil in my closet

My best friends all live next door

Do you remember all those things you said?

Turn back another page like I never left?

Until I leave again.”

“…Listen” also puts the cap on a dozen songs that are clearly part of a greater whole. The record ends much like it begins, providing a feeling of artistic closure, but also acknowledging that the emotions that inspired the art are still far from being written in ink.

It is these feelings of torment and classic tragedy that make this album exciting. Better Than Knowing Where You Are sounds like the first chapter of a great novel. It is a story that is still unfolding, and perhaps most importantly for the band, it encourages listeners to keep their ears open to see how it all ends.

It’s difficult to say whether Spitalfield was ever actually trying to become the next Jimmy Eat World. But if those comparisons weren’t accurate before, there is no doubting them now.

From the Nov. 29 – Dec. 5, 2006, issue

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