One of our favourite bands of the past five years, every single release has something to recommend it – from one of the finest mini albums you’ll ever hear to a 13-minute conceptual piece about the grieving process and their fitting finale with the long player ‘Young Animal Hearts’, they would always push themselves and provide songs where you’d pick up on something new every single time you listened. On their acoustic EP ‘Between Me and You’, they brought a new and unsettling side to their captivating hook-driven early single ‘A Let Down’.
The first time we saw Spring Offensive was a release show for mini-album ‘Pull Us Apart’ in the Cellar in Oxford in 2010 and to say we were blown away would be an understatement. We headed to Oxford with Our Lost Infantry, who SO had asked to provide support, and it ended up being a very special night. Songs like ‘I Found Myself Smiling’ and ‘Every Coin’ were darkly ominous but spoke directly to you in a way few songs do on first listen. Sold out and extremely sweaty, it was the start of a beautiful friendship between the two bands and it was one of those gigs where you come out knowing you’ve seen a band who are going to be special. It was only right that Our Lost Infantry asked Spring Offensive back to their hometown show in Aldershot’s West End Centre when they released ‘The Arsonist’ single, and this show – on a blisteringly hot evening – was just as good. The band wowed every single person in the Westy that night and quickly became adopted hometown heroes.
As Spring Offensive unveiled the aforementioned sprawling 13-minute ‘The First of Many Dreams About Monsters’, we were lucky enough to see them in various other venues across the south as they premiered what was to become the stunning song in all its glory to a mixture of music fans watching in awe and the pub regulars looking on in confusion… A show in Staines sticks in the memory and a gig at Winchester’s Railway Inn, with a sickness-ravaged OLI also on the bill, also showed a band growing in confidence – you got the feeling they knew just how good this expansive and important song was.
It was around now a plan was hatched by Our Lost Infantry. After chatting with fellow new friends Olympians about how they were sick to death of playing on bills with bands that had no crossover appeal with them, they discussed gig swaps in each other’s hometowns and it was quickly decided that Spring Offensive should join the bill – hence the ’13 Angry Men’ tour was arranged. Shows in Norwich, London, Oxford (the first time we saw Gunning for Tamar, too) followed and then there was the truly triumphant return of the bands to the Westy. It ended, as all good tours should, with every member of every band on stage performing a Springsteen cover.
Early in 2011, Spring Offensive released the sublime acoustic EP ‘Between Me and You’ which found the band swapping their compelling mixture of post rock and indie for something more subtle and introspective. It was no surprise to hear it was just as impressive. The band then headed into a more poppy direction with the samba-tinged ‘A Stutter and a Start’ and then, in early 2012, the song that cannot fail to relate to anyone who has ever been stuck in a dead-end job and wondered how it came to be – ‘Worry Fill My Heart’. Lyrics like ‘With my tie tied too tight and an ear pressed to the clock’ and ‘I never thought I would be so in line with convention’ ringing true with many. It’s perhaps due to these feelings, the band started heading off on very successful tours in Europe – Germany especially seems to love Spring Offensive. A launch show at the Modern Art gallery in Oxford for this release found the band going through their back catalogue and giving a nod towards what to expect from what was to become ‘Young Animal Hearts’.
Taking their time to ensure the album was as good as it could possibly be, they finally released the record in March this year and it didn’t disappoint. Combining the best elements of their sound from all of their previous releases, it was a cohesive, intelligent and massive-sounding record with the more accessible moments like ‘Hengelo’ (which still had the audacity to discuss the case of Germany’s mystery ‘Forest Boy’) comfortably sitting alongside the more contemplative stylings of ‘Cut the Root’ and ’52 Miles’. As with Stagecoach last year, it’s a fine record to leave us with. While there’s some sadness it’s unlikely we’ll hear more from Spring Offensive in the future (the official line is it’s an ‘indefinite hiatus’) we can all enjoy these songs time and time again.
A triumphant final jaunt around Europe before a last hometown show in Oxford and then a sold-out gig in London will see the band wave goodbye – but what a pleasure it’s been to watch them grow and evolve over the last few years. They’ll be missed, but never forgotten. Thanks for everything.