Britpop veterans Shed Seven are back with their first new album in 16 years. The York five-piece is best known for their 90’s guitar pop hits like “Chasing Rainbows” and “Going For Gold.” Though they never rose to the fame of other Britpop groups like Oasis, Blur, Pulp or Supergrass, they’ve always had a devoted fan base and with their brand new LP, Instant Pleasures, they’ve still got plenty to prove.
The album opens with the gargantuan, brass-filled, Stones-esque single, Room In My House and though the vocal melodies and repetitive lyrics become tedious after a while, it’s obvious that frontman Rick Witter is still in good form and lead guitarist Paul Banks can still pull off an epic guitar solo, which closes the track.
The band continues on a high with the next track, Nothing To Live Down, perhaps the most uplifting track on the record and with strong, emotive lead vocals that listeners could easily mistake for Kelly Jones at times. Despite the fact that it gives off the warm and fuzzy feeling of a slightly corny Rooney song, their simplistic lyrics are still moving “I’ve got nothing to live up to / I’ve got nothing to live down”. Next up is the radio-friendly, feel-good tune It’s Not Easy and though Witter delivers an impassioned vocal performance backed by an impressive choir, by this point in the record, it’s impossible to overlook the simplicity of the lyrics thus far. These cliché lyrics really taint the next few tracks, Said I’m Sorry, Better Days and Victoria, particularly the latter track, a cringey love song where the band thought it OK to deliver this monstrosity, “I’d buy a country and name it after you.”
With Enemies & Friends, the band are back on track with catchy vocal melodies in the chorus and a strong lead guitar solo, which may even allow some listeners to overlook the run-of-the-mill lyrics. The subsequent track Star-Crossed Lovers displays some of the best guitar work on the record, particularly with guitar pedal effects reminiscent of U2’s The Edge. On Hang On To Yourself, the band come up with some of the weakest melodies on the record and the chorus itself just feels lifeless and uninteresting, however, they quickly regain melodic fire on Butterfly On A Wheel which marks the return of the uplifting chorus and Witter’s stirring lead vocals. Instead of ending on a high note, the album’s final two tracks, People Will Talk and Invincible, see the band fall into another pitfall of weak melodies that only further magnify the band’s glaring lyrical weakness.
Instant Pleasures really is a tale of hit or miss. It seems the band either comes up with emotive, uplifting melodies and choruses that make you want to put your arm around your friend or bland, tiresome melodies and choruses that never fully connect. However, Rick Witter’s strong lead vocals and Paul Banks’ impressive guitar work are constant throughout the record, but unfortunately, so are the cheesy, superficial lyrics.
The good, clean production plays to strengths of the band, particularly with the addition of brass and the choir, which elevates and adds depth to the record. There’s also a stereotypical dad rock vibe at play here that they never seem to shake and instrumentation that bores more often than not. Ultimately, this record’s brand of simplistic, nostalgic Britpop won’t disappoint fans of Shed Seven, but it sure won’t gain them any new fans either.