Researching the Stereophonics is a tricky thing- despite a career spanning an impressive twenty one years, all too often the band have been accused of churning out 'meat and potatoes' rock tunes. Media folk have tended to dismiss their albums as simply music by numbers making you wonder is this just lazy journalism or does the opinion actually warrant some attention. Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, the fact is that their eight studio album, Graffiti On A Train has been accompanied by sell out tour dates so even the jaded music industry types would have to admit that they must be doing something right.
But enough school yard bitchiness and on to the music. The album's opener 'We Share The Same Sun' begins disguised as an acoustic mid-tempo tune but quickly builds into a full on rock-out by the time the first kick drum rolls in. Kelly's signature gravel toned vocal soars above electric guitars and larger than life percussion. The chorus does what all good chorus's should, and is memorable after one listen making this an obvious candidate for a single. 'Indian Summer', the album's official lead single also has that quirky radio ready appeal. The catchy hook and country inspired slide guitars is reminiscent of dare I say it, Bryan Adams, leaving you questioning if it's actually OK to like it or should it be hidden in the dusty archives of 'middle of the road' FM.
Commercial accessibility aside, 'Graffiti On A Train' also has its share of darker moments. 'Violins and Tambourines' possesses a slight punk edge and a droning vocal that Jones uses to tell his audience “I killed a man but life is cheap they say”. Elsewhere the distorted guitars, horns and majestic strings of 'Roll The Dice' reminds us of the band's undeniable ability to write a decent hook. The nonchalant blues of 'Been Caught Cheating' is an unexpected shining moment with its understated production providing an authentic blues sound.
Yes, some may choose to categorise them as musical marmite, but The Stereophonics have survived two decades in a business where you're only as popular as your number of You Tube hits, so credit must be given where it's due. Besides, what's so wrong with 'meat and potatoes' anyway! In the right amount, it can be quite tasty.
Review by Karen Lawler