Release Date: Aug 1, 2011
Record label: A&M
Sometimes there are things in this job you have to do that you really don’t want to, like taking the musical bin out or having the sick sonic family pet put down. If you’ve followed their story at all, to dislike the spirit of [a]Viva Brother[/a] is near impossible, at least unless you’re a joyless, knee-jerking moron.We’re talking about a band who say things in interviews like, “People are afraid to write massive songs that’ll sound good on the radio. We’re self-elected to do that.
Forced to change their name after being threatened with legal action by an Australian Celtic trio, savaged by the music press following their self-aggrandizing "saviors of rock & roll" claims, and recently outed as a former emo band named Kill the Arcade, it's fair to say that Slough "grit pop" four-piece Viva Brother's attempt at world domination hasn't gone as smoothly as they'd perhaps hoped. Indeed, it's difficult to think of another band who've had to face such hostility before even releasing a record, but it's equally difficult to elicit any sympathy once their debut album, Famous First Words, reveals just how wide of the mark their Gallagher-esque boasts were. Perhaps encouraged by the positive responses to recent live reunions by Blur, Suede, and Pulp, its ten tracks attempt to muscle in on the nostalgia surrounding the '90s Cool Britannia era.
On the cover of their debut album, the members of Viva Brother stare out from photographs hung in a barbershop window. A cynical voice might suggest that's fitting, given that photographs hung in barbershop windows are usually about 20 years out of date. Viva Brother, after all, proudly cleave to the 1990s for inspiration. The occasionally angular guitar riffs and falsetto vocals are borrowed from Blur, while the attitude and vocal mannerisms come via Oasis.
For the past couple of years, many obituaries have been written for guitar-orientated bands in mainstream UK music. I emphasise the word mainstream because a quick rummage through the blogosphere on sites like this would suggest the homegrown underground scene - whether it be guitar-driven or otherwise - is as healthy as it's ever been these past 40 years. Lurking around the capital are excellent offerings by The Horrors and Male Bonding - both of whom have churned out two impressive records in the space of two years - will immediately slap you around the face.
Viva Brother are the latest UK hype band to emerge seemingly from nowhere, this time making self-proclaimed "Grit Pop. " The term is an obvious nod to Britpop but also to their hometown of Slough (which, by the way, still isn't half as gritty as Pulp's early 1990s Sheffield). A large part of how they have made it this far has to do with their loudmouth posturing in the British indie press and in public starting their second ever gig with the line "If anyone here doesn’t want to see the future of music, leave now.
Rarely does even the British music press set upon a record with the kind of savagery that has been reserved for Viva Brother’s début. Having been signed by Geffen on the back of airing of their demo on BBC Radio 1, the band – who would still be known simply as “Brother” were it not for a conflict with an Australian group with that name – are now the music hack’s go-to whipping boys. Widely mocked since their laughable declaration at an early gig that anyone who didn’t “want to see the future of music” should leave, Viva Brother would have been up for a critical mauling if they produced anything less than rock’s second coming.
You might just have heard of Viva Brother, a tough-talking Slough four-piece in thrall to the melodic brawn of Oasis. Until recently, they were known as Brother, before being forced into an unflattering name-change by a globally renowned Celtic-Australian didgeridoo outfit. Now, though, Viva Brother find themselves the subject of another minor controversy.
Disappointing fare from Britpop revivalists on the receiving end of critical vitriol. Mike Diver 2011 Sounding every second like the work of men whose formative records were Parklife and Definitely Maybe – and they’re quite possibly the only two records the Slough quartet have ever owned between them – Famous First Words isn’t a debut to hold the weakest of candle flames to either influential LP. The songs here are largely reminiscent of so many 90s Britpop also-rans – inoffensive, unmemorable, lacking any grit or bite – and producer Stephen Street (Blur, The Smiths, Kaiser Chiefs) brings his standard polish to proceedings.
Slough has always had a bad rep. Usually this comes from the kind people who have never been there and are only too quick to recite lines about friendly bombs and the lack of bovine grazing opportunities from John Betjemen’s notorious poem. Granted, the majority of its population have little to say by way of praise either: this writer once met an embarrassed individual at a party who claimed to hail from the non-existent “North Eton”.