Softly trickling into existence with beautiful dreamlike piano melodies, the opening track “I’m With You” gives listeners time to adjust to an album that is vastly different from earlier works. Gradually giving way to a choppier techno style, “I’m With You” is a good representation of the contrast and change found within the album. By this time, it’s clear that Grouplove is moving in a new direction musically. Whereas the first album was very crisp, clean, and complete-sounding, Spreading Rumours stands out as a much busier, ever-changing album. Arriving during a sort of transition period between musical styles, the album sounds as if a musical brainstorm has erupted into a variety of eclectic styles and colors.
One thing that remains unchanged for Grouplove on Spreading Rumours is the heavy reliance on the unique vocals of Christian Zucconi and Hannah Hooper; the harmonies between the two remain strong, as usual. But even then, with the representation of such a vast assortment of different styles like the jangly and busy sounds of “Sit Still”, the tropical island vibes of “Shark Attack”, a chaotic MGMT-like sound in “Hippy Hill”, and the folky bookend of the album, “Save the Party For Me”, Grouplove is clearly a different band stylistically than it was two years ago, resulting in some growing pains amid some freshly impressive ideas.
As a whole, the album seems jumbled and out of place, as if it’s not quite sure where it fits in musically, especially when compared with the extremely well-arranged freshman effort, Never Trust a Happy Song. However, when examining individual tracks, especially “Ways to Go”, “Shark Attack”, “I’m With You”, and “Hippy Hill”, it’s hard to deny the inevitable success of the work. If anything, Spreading Rumours creates even more hype for a third album that will surely show more clearly the stylistic direction of Grouplove.
What’s truly missing in this sophomore release is the unbridled and unpredictable energy that was ever-present throughout “Never Trust a Happy Song.” It’s as if they wanted to make songs that followed the Grouplove formula, rather than presenting the spontaneity of a track like “Lovely Cup.”
While songs like the lead single “Ways to Go” tap into this original energy, the album overall feels like an effort to get through. With most of the good songs packed into the first half, there isn’t necessarily a payoff for listening all the way through. Grouplove seems to have forgotten how to have fun. While serious or meaningful songs are never a bad thing, any band would do well to remember what they’re specifically good at, and to not try too hard to reproduce their own sounds.
“Spreading Rumours” is most definitely fun at its peaks, but there aren’t enough of them to salvage the album as anything more than slightly better than mediocre. Hopefully Grouplove can blend their serious and fun side more seamlessly on their next record, but for now, “Spreading Rumours” shows they have a ways to go.