Review Summary: Slough upstarts try - and fail - to resurrect britpop's rotting corpse.
Although it may not have seemed so at the time, the implosion of Oasis in the summer of 2009 has turned out to be a watershed moment for British guitar music. No sooner had the Gallagher brothers come to blows than hordes of younger pretenders fought for their thrown and to fill the void they’d left in the britpop market. Results have been decidedly mixed; Some bands like Kasabian, for instance have significantly upped their game and are rightfully reaping the rewards, while a far larger group have found no such success, a just outcome based on the quality of their mundane music. Slough upstarts Viva Brother are sadly another name to add to the likes of General Fiasco and Twisted Wheel in the latter camp, not that they’d have you believe that, of course.
You see, using a tried and tested method perfected by the Gallaghers, the foursome have spent months talking themselves up, while unceremoniously dismissing practically every other act in the history of music as secondary. It’s a trait that’s almost as irritating as their tendency to pull faces in photo shoots, a practice that was hardly edgy when The Sex Pistols did it 35 years ago, and this along with such attitude has already gained them as many detractors as admirers. Like their heroes, they step well over the line between self-confidence and arrogance, but while Oasis (in the mid-nineties, at least) had era-defining anthems to back up their claims, Viva Brother quite simply don't, though that’s not at a want for trying.
No sir, Viva Brother have most certainly tried, so hard in fact that they’ve ripped off the britpop main players in virtually every way shape and form imaginable. The grit and energy on show is reminiscent of Definitely Maybe (though never channeled with the same effortless swagger), the guitar licks are pure Noel Gallagher (though not half as memorable), and singer Lee Newell even tries to twist his voice in a miserable attempt to replicate Liam Gallagher’s nasally tone. It’s plagiarism that’s as sickly as it is shameless, and makes for a record without so much as a single note that’s not firmly rooted back in the nineties. Nostalgia alone ain’t a bad thing, it’s when you forget the key ingredient – the great songs – that you begin encountering problems, and that ultimately is Famous First Words’ downfall.
In fairness, it’s not all bad news; Opener "New Year's Day" has a distinct whiff of Parklife-era Blur about it, and there are a couple of other nicely written hooks scattered among the album’s other nine songs. One decent song and a few occasional sparks, though, are nowhere near enough to prevent this debut from being a complete failure. Britpop as both a commercial and creative force died in the mid-nineties, and the demise of Oasis should have been the final nail in it’s long prepared coffin. Unfortunately, though, there are bands, like Viva Brother who seem unwilling to move on, and it’s the existence of music like theirs which is anchoring us in the past at a time when we should be gazing ahead with optimism.