In August 1997, Stereophonics released their debut studio album, Word Gets Around, which bore five singles and peaked at number six in the UK music charts. Now, eighteen years on they have released their eighth studio album, Keep the Village Alive, an eclectic ten track affair with lead singer and guitarist Kelly Jones once again helming the production.
The first single and opening track on the record, C’est La Vie, bodes well for the rest of the album with its upbeat opening guitar riff and Jones’ elongated vocal style, the track is reminiscent of everything good about the British indie scene of 2005, simplistic, smart and inoffensive. The second track, White Lies, is more evocative of Stereophonics older material such as Have A Nice Day and Dakota, a simple and effective ballad with a catchy piano motif and a humble four on the floor kick pounding through, before building to a powerful crescendo with its chorus.
Sing Little Sister, the third track is undoubtedly the ‘heaviest’ song on the album, with the vocals taking a backseat to its impressive yet minimal blues influenced riffs and the 60’s inspired psychedelic percussion, featuring heavy cowbell and shaker use. Being the only case for a serious ‘rock’ tune on the whole disc, the song really stands out against the others in that it’s the most different and attention grabbing, however the vocals on the track detract from the music in that they are bland and middle of the road, giving the track a karaoke feel.
The second single from the album, I Wanna Get Lost With You, sounds like a mature Vaccines, the reverb on the lead guitar and the constant bassline stylistically tie in well with the sixth track, Fight Or Flight, in that they both sound like Noel Gallagher penned and produced everything bar the lyrics.
The penultimate two tracks, Sunny and Into The World are the most impressive on the album, the former is bold and loud and allows Jones his best and most varied vocal performance of the LP, whereas the latter features an orchestral build up and a range of subtle instrumental nuances that really give the song depth and intricacy.
Overall the album is solid, I enjoy the music, I enjoy the vocals and the production is brilliant in its own understated way, however the lyricism throughout is riddled with the same two clichés that featured in the Stereophonics’ last seven albums, namely the summer and escapism involving women. The fact of the matter is, that as a band Stereophonics have been consistently churning out middle of the road alternative pop albums for nearly twenty years now, and there’s only so many times the same motifs can be repeated, especially if they were tired to begin with. Although the album is enjoyable if looked at for what it is, and that’s another, more than decent album by a consistently decent band. However if you’re not a fan of Stereophonics or if you’re looking for anything new or different, it disappoints.