Crate-Digging: Spanish Prisoners – Gold Fools

(self-released, 2011)

Ah, the Spanish Prisoner grift, an old trick that I’m only too familiar with. See, I’m a victim of the gag, and I continue to be haunted by my naïvete to this very day. If you’re not familiar with the concept, go ahead and read up on it. I’ll wait for you.

Your inbox is probably filled with hot messages from Nigerian royalty needing to get money out of the country if only they could have your bank account number, yes please, and in return they’ll give you a share of the fortune once they make it to a neutral country. Right? (At this point, might as well call it the Nigerian Hail Mary, or something similarly inane.) This, of course is the dumbed-down version of what could certainly be a well-crafted and thought-out process, with layers upon layers of complexity.  Turns out that greed is a powerful intoxicant, and I’m a human being, so I responded to one of these emails with not only my bank account information, but my debit pin number as well – 7835. (Don’t use that.)

As you can imagine, I was in for a great surprise when I checked my account balance a few days later – I had apparently bought all sorts of crazy things. A Gibson Custom Don Felder EDS1275 Doubleneck Aged/Signed Electric Guitar? That’s ten grand! The Musician’s Gear Large Format PA Package D? Six grand. (Isn’t my credit sort of maxed at this point?) Sounds fishily like a musician or a band’s got their hands on my numbers. But you know what the kicker was? An eBay auction victory for, get this, a lock of Nick Lachey’s hair. What, for good luck or something?

So with my pockets considerably lighter, I dug in a bit to the Mystery of the Disappearing Bankroll (or Nigerian Hail Mary – yes!) and, with my considerable and laughably-prime-time-crime-procedural hacking skills, I traced the source of the IP footprint to an apartment in Brooklyn, New York, where – duh – most decent bands hail from. (I’m talking to you now, bands from everywhere else. You’re not cool.) Gotcha now! Looks like all funds filtered through, the website for, you guessed it, Spanish Prisoners, a band from Brooklyn.

I’m feeling charitable. You guys can keep the guitar and PA and other things, as you probably need them more than me. No, I won’t press charges this time – I like your music and all – but I’m going to have to cancel my credit cards and re-secure my bank account. Just – please explain the hair. That’s weird.*

*This never happened. Spanish Prisoners are not criminals in any way. Probably.

Why do I mention this? The band obviously have an affinity for this sort of illegal activity, and have named their musical project after it in order to glorify it, to get the kids who buy their records and attend their shows “in on the action,” as it were. (Their words, not mine.)** All this just goes to show you can trust these guys only as far as you can throw them, and I’m pretty sure most people out there can’t actually throw one person, let alone a whole band of them, so that’s a big fat nil in the trust factor column.

**Not really their words – mine, actually.

What they lack in moral fiber, they make up for in morose, shimmery pop, a byproduct of never being happy because of their affiliation with criminal elements. Should I stop that now? OK, fine, I will, and I will only do so because of the band’s actual generosity. See, their debut album, Gold Fools, has been unleashed as a “name your price” download through a bandcamp page, as well as assorted singles and sundries. They want you to like them. They’re not doing things to purposely make your life miserable.

And liking them isn’t a difficult thing to do. Lead Prisoner Leo Maymind’s 4:00am reveries float in a “tremolo haze”*** above the streets of New York City, attracting stray snippets of life like a magnetic field and coalescing into visions of truth. Right? Taking cues from 23-era Blonde Redhead (“November Third,” “Cadillac from Yesterday”) as well as Robert Quever’s output as Papercuts (“Know No Violence,” “Slow Decay”), Spanish Prisoners wrap their arms around this niche brand of indie dream pop and make it their own, as touches like the hushed chorus of “Know No Violence” or the lush thickness of “Los Angeles Guitar Dream” set the band apart as their own thing, dude.

***Those ARE their words.

The four-piece even does a Rihanna on “Slow Decay,” with its repetition of the final syllable of the title (stretched into two syllables, actually), “ay-ee,” recalling the “ella” part of “Umbrella.” It sounds nothing like Rihanna, and this will be the last mention of her in this column. Sorry about that. Spanish Prisoners’ take on somber indie pop navigates a dreamlike elegance that has nothing to do with Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp’s former flame, and everything to do with tapping into the human condition, shedding light on the deep hurt there. It is NOT, I repeat, NOT their intention to steal all of your money. I was just kidding about that. Nevertheless, Spanish Prisoners are the masters here, of their craft, and we are their fools. Their Gold Fools, as it were.

RIYL: Blonde Redhead, Papercuts, The Besnard Lakes, Candy Bars


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