By Stephen Thompson, NPR Music
The word "supergroup" gets thrown around like so much confetti, then affixed to any band whose members have worked on high-profile projects of any kind in the past. But not all supergroups are the bloated product of committee thinking or Frankensteinian ego exercises; some are just established musicians who've discovered organically that they like working with certain other established musicians.
Divine Fits will surely get tagged as a supergroup, though its members — Spoon<http://www.npr.org/artists/15189629/spoon>'s Britt Daniel, Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade<http://www.npr.org/artists/17093492/wolf-parade> and Handsome Furs<http://www.npr.org/artists/15395134/handsome-furs>, and New Bomb Turks' Sam Brown, with Alex Fischel helping out on keyboards — aren't exactly Mick Jagger teaming up with Dave Stewart<http://www.npr.org/2011/11/22/142604996/superheavy-on-world-cafe> in the fame department. Their projects are known and respected, absolutely, but even Daniel is hailed as much for his fussed-over pop-rock craftsmanship as he is for his stage persona.
Aside from a teaser single, A Thing Called Divine Fits is the first most will have heard of their work together, and if they took a while to hone their collective sound, it doesn't show here. This is the work of guys who know exactly what they want from their music: namely, to explore a bit of a new-wave streak while still operating in their wheelhouse of slick, sharp, smart pop-rock.
Fischel's synths really help flesh out these 11 songs — the hook in "My Love Is Real" could have propelled an alternate-universe hit for The Human League — but a spikier, guitar-driven side still wins the day in "Flaggin a Ride," while "Baby Get Worse" splits the difference with winning results. Divvying their vocal duties roughly 50/50, Daniel and Boeckner keep A Thing Called Divine Fits sounding crisp and quotable, as in "My Love Is Real" ("My love is real / until it stops") and "Shivers" ("I've been contemplating suicide / but it really doesn't suit my style"), among others. Comparisons are fair and inevitable, but the album deserves that highest of compliments: For all its familiar components, it sounds like Divine Fits.
A Thing Called Divine Fits will be available to stream on demand from August 13 through August 20, 2012.