Review Summary: Keepin' calm, carryin' on
The more I stare at the title Keep Calm and Carry On
, the more it feels like Stereophonics are turning around and taunting me, and with nothing but the truth.
When I picked up a copy of Pull The Pin
two years ago I’m not sure I knew what the appeal of it was, but I defiantly do now: I, like anyone else who grew up with Britpop, knew the album’s ins and outs before Kelly Jones committed them to tape. And two years is an important statistic, because on paper you simply can’t fault his work ethic: his band has kept calm and carried on for fourteen years and produced half as many studio albums, numerous arena sell-out shows (and one compilation album to boot), and – naturally – a best of. He also took the time to take blows (and then take them back) with Thom Yorke. Under the heading Jones goes with for 2009, the message couldn’t be clearer: expect the expected, and forever, while you’re at it. And if you’re wondering, his voice is still jagged.
That may infuriate any fan of the band that has halfway bid bye-bye to the band - grown up and begged for just a little change - but for the loyalists nothing need change. In fact, Stereophonics’ sound can still be split into three categories. They continue to die by their hearts in the bare echoes of “Could You Be The One” – this album’s “It Means Nothing” or “Rewind” or Since I Told You Its Over”. They continue to imply their fists with “Wonder” and “Trouble”, old-school rock numbers with nothing but grizzly guitar riffs. And they even continue to spurt wannabe sleaze from their mouth, straight from “She’s Alright”, a half-hearted anthem if ever there was one – it shouldn’t be so hard to resist someone singing “She’s alright/she’s ok” five times before you sing to it once, and it should be even easier when handclaps are involved.
For the aforementioned, slightly pretentious fan that wants to see change, Jones taps into something else on this album just two times. The electronic beats of “Beerbottle” are actually proof that change is bad; the track is throwaway, out of place and empty. But the album’s single is something else. “Innocent” is perfect. It’s not a lecture in hard rock, it’s not a dead love song, and it would be perfect for this year’s gone cloudless summer. It really and truly swerves the band around a corner they’ve really never been and one that Jones sounds proud of. A standalone single if there ever was one, but can anything else follow it into a separate package?
The answer is a bitter no, because the Welsh trio’s 2009 release just melts into the band’s canon as Pull The Pin
and Language, Sex, Violence, Other?
It seems trite and nostalgic, but Jones seems just to be playing music for the sake of playing music, and releasing it for the fear of breaking habits or missing deadlines. And to invoke further clichés, he certainly never sounded this bound to duty when he sang idly on the topic of nudity for Performance and Cocktails
or based songs on his own stage-scripts on Word Gets Around
. In the end, Keep Calm and Carry On
may well be fuel for the stadium, but it’s going by a script deader than ever.