Philadelphia indie rock group Spelling Reform continue to evolve on their new LP No One’s Ever Changed. Building off their 2015 debut EP Diving Bell, the band delivers more of their eclectic, distinctive sound – a mix of snarling pop rock and power pop, somber sing-alongs and melodic guitar solos. The tunes are anchored by singer/songwriter Dan Wisniewski’s feverous lyrics and urgent vocals, which have drawn comparisons to The Mountain Goats, Dan Bejar, the Silver Jews and Woody Allen (for real).
After years of songwriting and arranging, Wisniewski, bassist Tom Howley, guitarist Andrew Ciampa and drummer Mark Rybaltowski recorded the 11 songs on No One’s Ever Changed in a single, donut-fueled weekend in March 2016 in Philadelphia with Hop Along guitarist Joe Reinhart.
Sonically, the tunes pay homage to some of the band's major influences: the fun and loose pop of Wilco ("For Clair Patterson"), the hard-hitting yet melodic rock of Guided by Voices ("Microscope") and the acoustic folk rock of Neil Young ("Drag Your Horse").
Lyrically, Wisniewski stretches out on No One’s Ever Changed. Character studies include the examination of the thoughts of a stalker on “Tuscaloosa” and personal tales, like “Everyone Else’s Experiences” and the brief title track, explore the awkwardness of bumping into old prom dates on the train to work and overhearing friends having sex.
Wisniewski’s wide-ranging interests in science and history also shine through: particle accelerators and Charles Willson Peale both make quick appearances. One song – “For Clair Patterson” – tackles the concept of time while also paying homage to the titular geologist who discovered the age of the earth in 1953.
Between its well-formed songs, energetic delivery and varied instrumentation, No One’s Ever Changed makes for a fascinating listen, and a worthy addition to a Philadelphia music scene that’s overflowing with amazing music. Spelling Reform, who have been compared to The Weakerthans, Apples in Stereo and Pixies, are onto something.