Release Date: Mar 4, 2013
Record label: EMI
Stereophonics just do not get the respect, or the credit, they deserve. It seems requisite for any article on them to classify the group as “meat and potatoes”, though I for one am baffled by this, as the Welsh band is anything but generic to my American sensibilities. They’re dependable and consistent, but far from predictable cock-rock churning out rock-by-numbers or variations of the same song.
As a fair-weather ‘phonics fan, comeback track ‘Violins and Tambourines’ was something of a revelation. A little bit Elbow, a smidgen Foals’ ‘Spanish Sahara’; it totally reconfigured my notion of who and what Stereophonics had become. There's a new-found classiness that's much more than a half-hearted wine bar refurb of their festival-friendly drinking anthems of yore.
Continuing in the sober vein begun on 2009's Keep Calm and Carry On, Stereophonics manage a nifty trick on 2013's Graffiti on the Train: they sound simultaneously massive and intimate. Arena rock remains their specialty, as they're adhering to the tradition articulated by U2 and refined by Coldplay, two bands whose influence echoes throughout Graffiti on the Train, but Stereophonics never sound as massive as either group. Instead, as led by Kelly Jones, the band seems preoccupied with smaller issues, either matters of the heart or sundry mundane issues of existence.
For their sizable fanbase, Stereophonics will be for ever be synonymous with good times, Chris Evans's TV show and hands punching the air. For their detractors, they remain purveyors of meat-and-potatoes musical gruel. It may be too late to change many minds now, but the 2010 death of their former drummer Stuart Cable has brought about a metamorphosis.
Stereophonics are a band that I hold very close to my heart. In their prime in the early 2000s, they happened to be the headliners at the first proper gig I went to. It was wetter than your standard otter’s pocket, but the Welsh rockers put on a brilliant show, amidst a burglary into the mainstream and a rapidly rising fan base.
Put the peas on to boil, dear, we’re having meat and potatoes for supper. At least that’s the instinctive response from any self-respecting arbiter of cool on being presented with the new Stereophonics album, dashing off a 200 word sneer before heading to a recently-refurbished London gastropub for an oversized Sunday roast. It’s a lazy tag, this “meat and potatoes” moniker.
That the first Stereophonics LP since the death of former drummer Stuart Cable is bleak isn’t a surprise. Fumbling with an industrial version of their no messin’ pub rock on ‘Catacomb’ and ‘In A Moment’, it’s evident they’re trying for QOTSA, but they come over more like Status Quo’s denim frotting against Rammstein’s leather. Other misfires come in the title track’s overwrought attempt at a symphonic Bond theme, and the shaky pastiche of Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell’s sweet and sour vocal interplay on ‘Take Me’.
There's something admirable about Stereophonics' embrace of both working-class values and their blue-collar fans. In that respect, the band has become the U.K.'s Bon Jovi; their fanbase may be older now, but that dug-in loyalty will remain as long as the band keeps crafting the same Labour Party rock. Those fans, however, may be sorely disappointed with Graffiti on the Train, the band's first album in four years, as the songs wobble back and forth between maudlin acoustic confessionals (“Graffiti on the Train,” “Take Me”) and standard-issue lad rockers (“Catacomb,” “In a Moment”) caked in production mud.
A relaxed eighth album from Kelly Jones and company. Matthew Horton 2013 The eighth studio album from Stereophonics finds Kelly Jones at a crossroads. Post-greatest hits, Graffiti on the Train comes out on the band's own label Stylus Records and presumably affords Jones the time and space to carve a new niche. And somehow, just about, he does.