This Stereophonics article was written by Kieran Stowell, a GIGsoup contributor
In 1997, Stereophonics released their debut album, ‘Word Gets Around’. The record was a collection of stories about the everyday lives of the townsfolk, while also centring on frontman Kelly Jones’s testosterone-fuelled teenage years.
It’s been over eighteen years since that record and while a lot of bands that find major success tend to lose sight of their hometown amidst the large stadium crowds, Kelly Jones instead comes home and offers it a pint.
‘Keep The Village Alive’ instantly kicks off with ‘C’est La Vie’ – a scrappy fist-pumper in which Jones shouts and demands that you stop thinking and just enjoy yourself because “hell and heaven, they can wait for you, so go and do all the things that you want to do.”
For the most part the record continues to be explicitly optimistic. For example, ‘Sing Little Sister’ is a sex-fuelled blues track that captures the adrenaline and ecstasy that comes from late-night encounters. Standout track, the beautifully melodic acoustic pop song, ‘Song For The Summer’ offers the perfect way to lift your spirits.
It becomes very clear early on in the record that the band had intended to create an album full of optimism, and they succeed overall. However, what makes ‘Keep The Village Alive’ particularly enjoyable is the musical direction, which not only sets the tone of each song, but never fails to surprise. For example, the melancholic ‘White Lies’ that begins as a pop-rock standard about the breakdown of a relationship but slowly builds up to what may become a favourite for next year’s festival season. Then there’s the album’s 6-minute finale, ‘Mr & Mrs Smith’, which tells the story of the infidelity of a banker’s wife.
What captivates you instantly is the incredibly infectious opening riff that’s topped off with an unexpected but incredible instrumental that can only be described as a brilliant way to end an album. It’s not just the track’s music that makes it so captivating, it’s also the clever ways Jones manages to twist the story as to sympathize with the female character despite her promiscuity: “He’s got time, she’s got taste. He brings the devil out of her and puts a smile across her face.”
As a whole the record manages to sound almost as spontaneous as the writing and recording, with Jones stating that quite a few songs were written in 45-minute intervals or came out of thin air. An interesting approach, one might feel the lyrics on certain tracks such as ‘Sunny’ (which is more instrumental than anything) and ‘I Wanna Get Lost With You’ feel somewhat uninspired, and merely there to fill in the gaps left by the music.
A triumphant comeback with an uplifting, diverse record that may win over people who aren’t fans, while blowing the minds of those who are, let’s hope that this isn’t a one-off and that the lads truly decide to ‘Keep The Village Alive’!
Stereophonic’s latest offering is available now on Stylus Records.