Release Date: 09.09.03
Record label: V2/BMG
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
Licking Their Wounds
by: paul schrodt
From the moment you open its case, and complete with black-and-white photos of a kid and his older brother sharing a drink and a young tot kicking around the soccer ball You Gotta Go There to Come Back drips of aging, I-was-there-when-it-happened wisdom. Make no mistake: this is a musically solid work from a skilled band, but it's sad to see their catty Welsh edge fade away just as they were getting interesting. Many critics cited their previous disc, Just Enough Education to Perform, as their first "mature" work, but it's no match for the gushy and brainless nostalgia of songs like "You Stole My Money Honey" and "I Miss You Now," which will easily have music journalists damning their own words.
Summoning the high school graduation success of Green Day's "Good Riddance," lead singer Kelly Jones uses You Gotta Go There to lick his wounds--the break-up with his girlfriend, alienation with his friends and professional exhaustion. But unlike J.E.E.P., this time he has nothing to say about the music industry that has beaten him down, which might explain the faintness of Jones' pain; he's just tired of shouting. Unfortunately, his dense lyrics make him see much more indifferent than weary.
While Kelly Jones' croaky voice once signified anger and excitement, here it represents the album's sadness. It is Jones' voice, though, that often saves the album's mushy lyrics, like on the somber "Since I Told Your It's Over," where repressed tears and strong feelings are all that balance the endearing but ultimately naïve words: "So take a look at me now/Since I told you it's over/You got a hole in your heart/I'll find a four leaf clover."
To be absolutely fair, the music is some of the band's most solid to date. On the more dead serious songs, Jones' spirited songwriting awakens the humdrum nostalgia ("Getaway," "I Miss You Now"). And at its very best ("Rainbows and Pots of Gold"), his daringly grand piano-and-string compositions form the kind of delicate evocativeness Moby had with Play. Yet even it manages to be bamboozled by truly poor lyrical writing: "I heard you're doing well/Selling art and everything/I like you're stuff; good for you/I'll buy a piece or maybe two."
Pretty melodies or not, this album still gets old fast. The Stereophonics have nicely cleaned up the musical clumsiness of past works, but I'd take the sharp banter of J.E.E.P. over the untimely soberness of their newest album any day. In his career, Kelly Jones has never talked so much and had so little to say. Few bands have defended and fought for their music with such unwavering spite, and yet even fewer have resorted to such sheepish apologias for their brutal determination. Oh well, I guess you gotta go there to come back, right? 05-Jan-2003 11:48 AM