Still, Spreading Rumours retains some of the signature sound that Grouplove carved out on their debut Never Trust a Happy Song (mostly, Christian Zucconi’s distinctive yelp). They’re at their best when they focus on the sensibilities they know best, such as in the haunting “Didn’t Have to Go,” which features vocalist Hannah Hooper negotiating the space between infatuation and heartbreak, and in album closer “Save the Party for Me,” which deploys sweet harmonies over a slow-burning lilt. At times, Grouplove finds a way to synthesize their traditional rock sound and electronic influences; “Bitin’ the Bullet” grounds its dense arrangement with an aggressive stomp, making for the album’s most bracing listen. Elsewhere, they falter; the skittering 808 drums and grinding synth bass on “Shark Attack” are ill suited to Zucconi’s beach-time tales.
Ultimately, Spreading Rumours can’t quite make up its mind about the direction it wants to go in. The band has the right to pursue new sounds, but when they’re peppered between more conventional songs, it reads as noncommittal. Grouplove’s sharp songwriting picks up most of the slack, but the tug of war between new and old makes an otherwise pleasant album a sometimes frustrating listen.