Welsh quartet back on track to earlier heights
Album of the Week: Stereophonics Graffiti on the Train (Stylus Records)
Stereophonics' last album, Keep Calm and Carry On, peaked at number 11 in the UK album chart and shifted 160,000 copies there. Such a result would be acclaimed as a triumph by any number of bands, but it was nothing short of a disaster for the Kelly Jones-fronted outfit from Wales.
Each of their five previous albums enjoyed number one status across the Irish Sea and their popularity was such that nobody batted an eyelid when it was announced that they would headline Slane (at the height of their popularity in 2002).
But much like the once enormously popular Travis, there was a sense that the two-albums-a-year brigade had had enough – and were more than happy to move on to a new phenomenon such as Adele.
Whether or not those people rekindle their interest in Stereophonics based on this album remains to be seen, but even the most cursory of listens reveals it to be one of their better albums – and certainly a good deal more rewarding than their last couple.
For a start, Jones has written a handful of first-rate songs.
The title track is arguably the best he's ever penned – a bittersweet and evocative account of a young romantic from a dead-end background whose idea of fun is to spray-paint train carriages.
The song is redolent in some ways of one of Jones's first compositions – Local Boy in the Photograph – and, thanks to the stirring strings orchestrated by regular Bond composer David Arnold, it soars high.
Lead single Indian Summer also benefits from Arnold's lavish treatment, but the bones of the song are strong too.
Jones has long had a knack for writing commercially appealing tracks and this is no different. His trademark raspy vocals should provide instant identification for those who haven't heard Stereophonics' output for some time.
The first half of the album is strong, but, in truth, the fourpiece quickly run out of ideas as the album wears on.
There are a couple of excursions into alt.rock that don't pay dividends and, all too often, the prosaic nature of Jones's lyric-writing does him no favours at all.
KEY TRACKS Graffiti on the Train; Indian Summer