Since hearing debut album Word Gets Around back in ’97, I have been a Stereophonics fan – a massive one! One attraction has always been their live performances and being of similar age to front-man Kelly Jones, their influences, lyrics and music resonates with me naturally.
Ninth studio album Keep The Village Alive goes off with a bang as lead single ‘Ce’st La Vie’ punches through the air-waves with the ‘Phonics rediscovering the youthful appeal and energy of ‘Dakota’. The intense lyrical eruption from Kelly is his finest for some time and as he sang “I didn’t see that you were looking at me baby by the Ferris wheel” at T In The Park a few months back, I got the feeling this stomper of a track was just made to ignite festival crowds everywhere. Indeed, the poppy-punk hook that echoed across festival sites reminds all of the magic the ‘Phonics are capable of.
Throughout the years the sound of the ‘Phonics has evolved with age, with some fans continuing on the journey and some checking out. ‘White Lies’ follows and is a song fans of the band will recognise from earlier albums, although there does seem to be a hint of Don Henley’s ‘Boys Of Summer’ present. No complaints from me, if you’re gonna look for some inspiration, an Eagle is a great place to start.
Influences are apparent throughout this album with rocky number ‘Sing Little Sister’ highlighting the ‘Phonics at their best with a bluesy Stones feel to it. Hints of INXS are also detectable with the chorus tricking my mind on more than one occasion, so that I was about to sing along to the old Terence Trent D’Arby classic ‘Dance Little Sister’. As a parent with two very young kids, ‘I Wanna Get Lost In You’ strikes a note with me as I start to envisage a weekend away with the missus that may never happen as I sing along to the catchy chorus.
‘Song For The Summer’ is a breezy number that uplifts the soul with connotations of optimism throughout. Elsewhere ‘Fight Or Flight’ continues with the dark edgy vibe of previous album Graffiti On The Train, whilst ‘My Hero’ is reminiscent of one of my favourite REM songs, ‘Nightswimming’. ‘Sunny’ is a highpoint, with Kelly showcasing his vocals alongside a pulsating drum and guitar finale and will no doubt be one of those ‘Phonics songs that goes to another level live.
‘Into The World’ reels it in again and provides everyone with a chance to catch their breath as Kelly appears to reflect on life’s big questions. With ten tracks, album closer ‘Mr And Mrs Smith’ opens with the guitar appearing to take some inspiration from Bryan Adam’s acoustic version of ‘Summer Of 69’, before ascending into a radio friendly sing-a-along fans of the band will love.
Keep The Village Alive is out now via The Stereophonics Ltd.