Gleaming Spires

  • Gleaming Spires
  • Songs of the Spires (Posh Boy) 1981  (Omnivore) 2021 
  • Life Out on the Lawn EP (Posh Boy) 1982 
  • Walk on Well Lighted Streets (Posh Boy/PVC) 1983  (Omnivore) 2021 
  • Funk for Children — Party EP (Vodka) 1984 
  • Welcoming a New Ice Age (Tabb) 1985  (Omnivore) 2021 

For much of the ’80s, Les Bohem (bass/vocals) and David Kendrick (drums) led a dual existence as members of LA’s Gleaming Spires and as the rhythm section of Sparks. Both had been in the punk-oriented Bates Motel; their subsequent work together has taken two divergent paths. The first Spires album is full of catchy, synthesizer-strewn silliness (“Are You Ready for the Sex Girls?,” “How to Get Girls Through Hypnotism”), while Life Out on the Lawn is more arty and serious, allowing electric guitar and wailing sax to routinize the sound, if not their bizarre outlook. While a somber cover of “Somewhere” (from West Side Story) demonstrates a continuing flair for incongruity, this approach is far less entertaining or original than their jollier early work.

As of Walk on Well Lighted Streets, the Spires became a quartet, with the stylistic influence of their Sparks experience beginning to show. The lyrics are more bizarre than ever, while the music manages to be simultaneously catchy and quirky, throbbing with drive but punctuated with oddball effects and gimmicky production by Stephen Hague. Best tune: “A Christian Girl’s Problems.”

Funk for Children consists of four tracks on one side and extended versions of two on the flip. The title tune incorporates a children’s chorus and “party” percussion for novelty effect, but is otherwise boring. Two numbers are essentially bubblegum rock-pop — robust and catchy, similar to the Spires’ early efforts. The program is rounded out with a Zappa soundalike, “Brain Button.” Unfortunately, the remix side features the wrong two songs.

Welcoming a New Ice Age isn’t as funny as other Spires’ endeavors, but its uncanny resemblance to contemporaneous Sparks records makes one wonder when Russell’s voice is going to appear and push Bohem’s aside.

The 2021 reissues add tracks: Songs of the Spires includes  Life Out on the Lawn and six previously unissued Bates Motel tracks. Walk on Well Lighted Streets adds the Party EP and several soundtrack items.

[Ira Robbins]

See also: Devo, Sparks