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Stereophonics – Graffiti on the Train album review

The Welsh wonders return with a brand new album.

Stereophonics

The Stereophonics began their career with the amazing and mesmerising Word Gets Around album. The album was based on the everyday goings on in the little Welsh village of Cwmaman, where the band hailed from. The lyrics on that album remain outstanding to this day and the music and passion behind the songs propelled the band onto the UK charts, where they have remained for nearly 17 years. To this day, Word Gets Around remains one of our favourite albums of all time and it’s an album that should be in every music lovers collection, up there with every classic album ever released in those polls of ‘albums you should own’. Haven’t got it?? Go out and buy yourself a copy! The follow up to that was the massive Performance and Cocktails album. We remember waiting with baited breath for this to come out. EF’s Carys bought it in W.H.Smith in Caernarfon, after visiting my Granfather’s farm, who lived nearby. The excitement of getting the album home and reading the lyrics over and over again was like no other feeling and it was a belter of an album that gave us the fantastic Bartnder and the Thief, Just Looking, Pick a Part That’s New, amongst others. They inspired a generation of teenagers with their inspiring songs and they were all over the television of BBC Wales and we adored them – still do! They gave us that get up and go, which we felt that we needed, living in a small, sleepy town and they inspired so many people. Kelly Jones was also the man all the girls dreamt of marrying, the band seemed like you could be mates with them too, they had a lot of banter, they loved their rugby and Stuart would fly the Welsh flag at every gig, by placing it on the front of his drum kit. So yeah, we loved them! What a band!

The albums that followed however, felt like the boys had lost a lot of their early day energy, preferring instead to release a few albums that felt like they had gone all mellow and slightly bitter and tired. Perhaps several years of life on the road and being in the music industry had taken its toll and Kelly was writing songs that were more and more stripped down, the songs were slower, moodier and many people were starting to question the direction that they were heading in, with Kelly even aiming a song at their critics in Mr. Writer – why don’t you tell it like it really is? Whilst they did have some gems and their cover of Handbags and Gladrags went down a storm, we just hoped that they’d pick up that guitar and give us a those rock/guitar riffs once again. Their Dakota track from their Language, Violence, Sex, Other? album this took the Phonics back to where they belonged and gave the fans the music and album that they hoped the band would make again for them. We’ve continued to see the band play live since day one and they are one of the best live bands in the world.

Fast forward to 2013 and they’ve got a new album for us and they’ve called it Graffiti on the Train. It has been a long four year wait for the new album and they also have a new member, in the form of former Noisettes drummer – Jamie Morrison, who replaces Javier Weyler. Indian Summer, was the first single released from the album and it’s a song that we love and it’s been stuck in our heads ever since we’ve heard it. Catacomb is a really great track on this album and it has lots of energy, with Kelly singing as fast as he can and it is a stand-out track on the album. We saw them debuting Violins and Tamborines last week at the Electric in Brixton and everyone loved it, it’s a bluesy number and a drawling story. Caught Cheating surprises us, by sounding a bit country-esque/Americana and this song definitely sounds even better live than it does on the record and showcases Kelly’s powerful vocals. Take Me has a floaty, ethereal and dark feel, with a groovy and dirty soft bass line and electric guitar flowing in the background. The female vocals added to the track sounds like nothing that we’ve ever heard the Stereophonics do before and there is quite an instrumental on the track, it’s flowing a little spooky and a brilliant song. This album is easily the darkest record the band have made and produced. Musically, the album is an extremely mature sound and the band sound as though they have grown so much and broadened their horizons and they’ve given us tracks that we never thought they were capable of giving us.

This album differs from their previous offerings, as it encompasses a mass of piano, strings, blues and gospel, which makes this album sound a bit epic. Kelly Jones is one of the greatest lyricists and songwriters that there’s ever been and his imagination never ceases to amaze us, but we’re not sure that this album has that genius written all over it, although you really never know what they’re going to come up with next. It’s an album that the fans will love and the songs are all growers, but it does have more than its fair share of those pesky slower numbers and there’s more than a few of them.

On the next album, please can you give us a lot of fast-rocking guitars, guys, then maybe throw in three or four slow-paced gorgeous tracks? The up-beat tracks are the ones that the fans really, really want you to write. It probably can’t be that easy to keep the fire in your belly forever, but bands that have been around for years, such as Green Day manage it. Maybe someone ought to stick the Phonics back in Cwmaman for 6 months and for Kelly to get back to basics and back to those roots to get the fire back! Take him away from the celebrity circuit and down to the local boozer and hang out with characters like Caramel Crisp and Cliff Chips. We imagine that doing that, combined with the musicality and knowledge that they have gained now – would produce a genius-like album.

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