Record Review: Spoons – Nova Heart

A+M Records | Netherlands | 7" | 1982 | AMS 9246-1

A+M Records | Netherlands | 7″ | 1982 | AMS 9246-1

Spoons: Nova Heart NETHERLANDS 7″ [1982]

  1. Nova Heart
  2. Symmetry

I was very lucky to come across Canadian band Spoons when I did. It was the first year or so of MTV and one afternoon, I happened to catch part of a video that was completely entrancing. Not so much the video, I quite frankly can’t remember any of it, but the song itself was simply stunning. “Nova Heart” featured a yearning, soaring melody that was impeccably produced by John [Roxy Music, Japan] Punter. The clarity and precision of the arrangement and recording was heavily reliant on Roland equipment, specifically the Jupiter 4 polysynth. The drums were built around rhythm box output and the heavily treated guitar added to the lush silkiness of the cut.

I wasted no time in getting the album from which this single came, but that’s another day, another blog. Suffice to say, that this track was enough to sustain an ongoing love of Spoons to this day. The band were convened in the studio and having recorded the single “Symmetry,” they needed to produce a B-side. “Nova Heart” was the candidate and producer Punter quickly recognized that a killer A-side was in the making, relegating “Symmetry” to B-side status. A lovely problem to have if you are in a band, yes?

“Symmetry” is a Moroderesque piece of autobahn music built on fast-paced repeating waveforms that sound like an amped up, popper take on the same sound that Punter achieved with Japan in their “Quiet Life” era. The singsong synth lines of Rob Preuss sound sprightly, childlike and playful against the earnest vocals and ringing guitars of Gordon Deppe. The track’s secret weapon is bassist Sandy Horne’s “Star Trek” vocals which float above the fray at half the tempo of the song’s actual rhythms for a fascinating counterpoint to all of the frantic energy in the song.

I only ever came across this single in a Netherlands pressing eleven years ago in the best record store I’ve ever visited. One of these days I need to obtain the Canadian 12″ of this single, because while I have the [even-more-of-a-great-thing] 12″ version of “Nova Heart” on my “Collectable Spoons” CD comp, the B-side of that single is an extended version of “Symmetry.” Sadly, I’ve only ever seen the ubiquitous US promo 12″ which loses the B-side entirely.

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16 Responses to Record Review: Spoons – Nova Heart

  1. Echorich says:

    The Spoons were a pretty engaging band when they first arrived on the scene. They definitely got the best out of John Punter. He added a lushness, as you describe, which avoided the band sounding “tinny” or sharp like A Flock Of Seagulls.
    The Spoons had quite a lot more fans than the evidence of their record sales may ever reveal. Nova Heart has been remixed over and over again, even with a kicking 4/4 dance beat by Lee Cabrera a few years ago. He is so reverential to the sheen of the original that he keeps the thumping beat a bay throughout the track and even builds on the sheen of the song in his reconstruction.
    They went a bit more towards a guitars up front sound on the follow up album and lost some of the specialness I originally found. The band, in one form or another, still seem to be making the concert rounds these days.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Nice to hear that the 2002 mixes aren’t awful! It’s hard to believe that “Nova Heart” only made 40 on the Canadian charts! The song was a monster to me! But were you aware that there was also a 30th Anniversary “Nova Heart” CD EP last year? http://www.discogs.com/Spoons-Nova-Heart-30th-Anniversary-1982-2012/release/3609349 Looks like the band themselves had a go at remixing it. Myself, I want to hear that demo! I still want to get “Talk Back” eventually. Especially now that there’s a CD. I remember hearing that Nile Rogers was producing their 1984 album at a time when his profile was skyrocketing and a “Nile Rogers Production” was like a license to print money, so I thought “well, at least it’ll be easy to buy.” So wrong there! To this day I’ve never seen a copy for sale in person!! Not even on [multiple] trips to Canada! And I also need “Stick Figure Neighbourhood!” The band also put out a comp of material recorded between “Arias” and “Bridges Over Borders” but not released: http://www.discogs.com/Spoons-Unexpected-Guest-At-A-Cancelled-Party/release/2436142 And I wouldn’t mind getting a copy of that either.

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  2. Taffy says:

    Great song; I really liked the entire Arias and Symphonies album. Honestly, I never would have even heard of this band had they not warmed up for Culture Club in late 1982. I can still recall the show, most people were there to see if Boy George was really a girl, and me grooving to this cool Canadian act. Drifting into early 80’s memories now…………

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – Did you see the band’s Wikipedia page? It says that Nile Rogers was at that show to have a closer look at Culture Club, who Spoons opened for at that show. Rogers was non-plussed by Culture Club and passed on recording with them. Instead, he ended up producing Spoons next album! It’s 29 years later, and I still have not heard “Talk Back” but at least it’s in print on CD now. All I need is the money to buy it [and several hundred other things].

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  3. rObPReusS says:

    hey POSTPUNKMONK ~

    thanks for your cool thoughts on our music.
    i’ve been subscribed to your excellent posts for awhile now,
    and it occurred to me to search and see if you HAD heard of our band-!

    9 years later, it’s nice to see this-
    and hey Nova Heart and our Arias album
    are 40 years old this year!
    ’82 was a good year for us….

    i guess our early 80’s Spoons music fits in with a lot of the
    other cool music you write about- i loved seeing you mention
    Classix Nouveau the other day… i loved them!

    cheers
    r o b

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      rObPREusS – Welcome to the comments! I saw earlier this year that you were subscribing to my posts and was honored. The only reason why I have not reviewed “Arias + Symphonies” [in a dozen years!] is that I’m cowed to do the album the justice it deserves!! I really think that it was the best album ever produced in North America! And one week we’ll strap in and go into fine detail on it! I wouldn’t disagree to an interview if you’re so inclined. I’m sure you have stories of recording that with John Punter.

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      • rObPReusS says:

        cool! i’d love to chat about it all sometime!
        John P was amazing and i just saw
        your review of a Rob Dean album
        which i need to track down….
        let’s stay in touch
        r

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  4. rObPReusS says:

    hi postpunkmonk!
    i just left a comment which
    i THINK fell into the void…
    thanks for the kind words
    about our Spoons tunes!
    i love your blog and was
    happy to see that you know
    our band!!
    40 years on..it lives on!
    cheers
    r o b

    Like

  5. rObPReusS says:

    oh it did post. NEVER MIND : )

    Like

  6. KeithC says:

    Definitely looking forward to an “Arias + Symphonies” post and even more to an interview on that CD’s recording back story. I’ve seen the Spoons so many times over the years (and one more time tomorrow in Calgary for a 150 person intimate concert!!). Would love to see the original members reunite for a 40th anniversary concert of A&S as well as hearing about Rob’s time in NYC.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      KeithC – I have been holding back for years on “Arias + Symphonies.” Always wanting the time and space to do it justice. Now that Mr. Preuss has tipped his hand, it seems like a sign to do it. Though I should wait until winter!

      Like

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