Listen to this track by new wave suburbanites and registered Canadian anglophiles Spoons. It’s their 1982 hit single “Smiling In Winter” as taken from their album Arias & Symphonies, the band’s second. The song outlines the impression of a season that their country, and mine (the same one, as it happens) is known, delivered in a style that demonstrates their love of British pop music, specifically new wave, post punk, and New Romantic.
Spoons were formed in 1979 out of high school. They’d put out an indie single in 1980, and later a debut album in Stick Figure Neighbourhood the following year with what would be their classic line-up: Gordon Deppe (lead vocal, guitar), Sandy Horne (vocals, bass), Rob Preuss (keyboards), and Derrick Ross (drums). They would go on to tour with some of the biggest acts of the era in Culture Club, The Police, and Simple Minds.
This song was one of three singles off of what would be their breakthrough on mainstream radio and help to define the era in early ’80s Southern Ontario, especially in the suburbs. The other two would be the title track, “Arias & Symphonies”, and “Nova Heart”. And these were all from a local band from Burlington, Ontario – actually one town over from where I grew up in Oakville – rather than from Sheffield, Liverpool, London, or other British musical mecca of early-’80s post punk and synth-based pop.
But, Spoons were no copycat band. They understood that the core of that new wave sound is about playing shadows against light on all kinds of levels. They knew that taking rock instruments and contrasting it against synths was really just the base ingredient of that dynamic. But, what of this song, and the contrasting forces working within it?