Quirky Thump: Instant Smile’s Latest Treasure ‘Spectacular Time’

To be quirky, or to be with quirk, is to unwittingly accentuate a characteristic that may not equate with a societal standard of “normal”. To be quirky is to be different. To be quirky is to be challenging. To be quirky is to be wonderful. A treasure.

  1. characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits.
    “her sense of humor was decidedly quirky”
    synonyms eccentric, idiosyncratic, unconventional, unorthodox, unusual, strange, bizarre, peculiar, oddoutlandish, zany; More

Instant Smile are quirky.

Since 2013, Philadelphia’s Instant Smile have provided the world’s earholes with a heady blend of swamp swagger that just to satiate my own urges to classify and categorise, I call Quirkcore. The husband and wife duo -Greg Phoenix (guitar/vox) Erin Berry (drums)- combine for the perfect recipe of swamp blues pie, one part stripped back guitar, one part primal drum, a heaped tablespoon of under the radar, consciousness seeping vocals, soaked overnight in a gallon of tremolo and sizzled and lit flambe until that crispy edge appears. It’s warm. It’s tantalising, and damn is it tasty!

Just to clarify, Instant Smile ain’t no Dan Auerbach yawnfest. This symbiotic couple treat the guitar/drum privilege with respect. They do it right. No wank. And the duo’s latest offering ‘Spectacular Time’ is no different.

Whomping into action with a succession of percussive rolls that really do warm the cockles of the heart, ‘Spectacular Time’s’ intro sets the tone for a moodily warm four-and-a-bit minutes that entices and cradles the shyer, darker side of the soul before releasing it into a black and white spiral of subsonic mayhem with its maudlin climax of big drums, a plummet, a crash, followed by the most snaking sinister guitar outro heard in quite a while. In between all of that, guitarist Greg Phoenix manipulates and coerces his ’63 Guild Starfire into a twang reminiscent of Link Wray or The Cramps at their sultry moodiest. For the sake of comparison, think UK’s Little Barrie circa 2006 played underwater. But really, there is no comparing the street-swamp guile of this stomper.

On the quirky ‘Spectacular Time’, Instant Smile capture the pure embodiment of primal rock ‘n’ roll.


“What you’re looking for, you’ll never find
What you’re searching for, you’ll never find
What you’re waiting for, you’ll never find”

And in this song’s case, never have truer words been spoken. ‘Spectacular Time’ is an intangible amongst intangibles. There’s no putting one’s finger on this. It can’t be categorised, classified or pigeonholed, it’s an entity unto itself. As unique and as raw as the physics of music will allow. And isn’t that just such a great nod to the song’s main inspiration, Guy Debord’s 1967 text ‘The Society of the Spectacle’, a Marxist philosophy critique of modern day society where Debord traces the evolution of a contemporary society where a once authentic social structure has been replaced with representation or, “the spectacle”. Like ‘The Society of the Spectacle’, ‘Spectacular Time’ is a commentary on all that is superficial and flimsy with social vanity, a timely message for me who immediately upon hearing this track, tried to slip it into an iTunes specific genre category only to get frustrated and step outside to have a cigarette.

“Machinery’s all in place, real life gone without a trace
of the actions that made us who we used to be
It’s all what we see
and not what we do, that’s all done
A lifetime of fame, but still we’re all alone again
And what good is fame, when only images remain”

And what is there left to say? Ultimately, all we are in life are passing entities, mere quirks on a non-existent radar attempting to impress one another into a flattery of words and absurd insincerities. Thank the almighty rock gods that there are still humans on this earth the calibre of Greg Phoenix and Erin Berry to not only set us straight with sage wisdom, but to stir our loins with the sort of quirky rock ‘n’ roll primeval that first stirred this planet into a revolutionary frenzy.

Hail rock ‘n’ roll now with the video of Instant Smile’s ‘Spectacular Time’.

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Benny Two-Shoes

Filling the void between grouchy dinosaurism and current day hipster snobbery, Benny Two-Shoes is the type of guy who kidnaps control of the stereo at sweet sixteen parties and does not relinquish until every last teenybopper leaves a fully-fledged Stooges fan.   

You can listen to the latest episodes, hosted by Benny Two-Shoes, on Roadkill Radio!

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