Home > Bust > Stereophonics – Performance and Cocktails

Stereophonics – Performance and Cocktails

V2 Records, 1999

I was excited to get this record at a serious discount because I had enjoyed a few strong tracks from the Stereophonics’ 2005 record “Language. Sex. Violence. Other?”.  You know me, I like the rock ‘n roll.  Therefore, with these British lads I figured if they sounded great in 2005, they must’ve sounded either tougher or more freewheeling back in the late nineties.  Plus, that expression on the lady’s face on the cover is quite amusing.  It looks like she’s undead and this guy is about to get a serious face-sucking surprise pretty soon.  The Bon Jovi lookalike in the background has no idea what is about to go down as he laughs at his own joke of “Hey buddy, we’re both wearing jean jackets!”.  In conclusion, so far this album looks like it contains rock, humor, and zombie chicks, so its possession was necessary!

The Stereophonics originate from Britain during that Brit rock era with Oasis, Blur, Pulp and the like.  Thankfully the group doesn’t bother with anything too cheeky as “Roll Up and Shine” blares out with more rock ‘n roll than any of those aforementioned groups.  Kelly Jones’ raspy vocals and the strong presence of guitar and bass make the song a fine introduction for the album.  “The Bartender and the Thief” turns the volume knob even louder to complete a powerful 1-2 rock shot that quickly sets the listener up for what is coming for the rest of the album.  Rock ‘n roll all the way, right?

Nope.  The songs come to a sudden halt with the pensive, soft strummer of “Hurry Up and Wait”.  Now, I understand the switch over to something a little slower because too much of the same thing can sound monotonous, but the song reveals quite a bit about the group.  For one, they aren’t content with one level of music.  As “Hurry Up and Wait” reveals, the Stereophonics also want you to think about love and waiting for the right person it seems.  That’s nice, thanks.

“Pick a Part That’s New” picks up a little bit as a pop ditty, whereas “Just Looking” dabbles with hot and cold flashes of quiet guitar strumming and blasts of repetitive chorus.  Hey, where is this consistent rock ‘n roll that the first two tracks promised?  “Half the Lies You Tell Ain’t True” tries to revive the comatose, but the group just can’t seem to decide on where they want to stick in terms of momentum.  None of the later songs on the disc remedy this confused indecision.

I understand that some people like the variety of tempos, lulls, and emotional moments, but I don’t think the Stereophonics do that well either.  Most of the hooks during the livelier songs aren’t luring enough while the music choices on the slower ones sometimes make the songs feel a little too long.  Jones’ vocals, initially interesting, are limited in their range and creativity, which makes the softer tracks sound a bit thin.  When “She Takes Her Clothes Off” and “Plastic California” meander in, get going, and conclude as usual, it becomes apparent that the Stereophonics fit the rock ‘n roll mold as merely a group that sounds loud at times but doesn’t put a whole lot of effort into being unique.  You’ve heard them before about four to five years earlier, in fact.

The band has plenty to see and do on their website, but as always MySpace and Last.fm have a few tunes you can listen to.

I’m calling this a Bust because I expected more out of the Stereophonics.  I thought the songs would be consistently more edgy or original, but they sound like a slightly more modern version (at the time) of many nineties rock bands.  Perhaps that’s why I just get this feeling that the record, despite its volume and perceived energy level, is ultimately quite dull.  I don’t think I’d ever put this album on over something a lot more interesting with its rock like Dinosaur Jr, Built to Spill, or even the Strokes.  Maybe the group’s record from 2005 was the band’s new sound that interested me, but this album from the early days lacks character and long term draw.  The group is still chugging along so don’t let a disappointed reviewer’s opinion of a decade-old album sway you from checking them out.  Just don’t start with this album.

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