Keep the Village Alive
11 September 2015, Stylus Records
fter over twenty years of touring and 36 singles, Stereophonics are back with their ninth studio album ‘Keep the Village Alive’ following on from their 2013 record ‘Graffiti on the Train’.
In the tracklist, ahead of the selection of slow, sentimental tracks such as ‘My Hero’ and ‘Song for the Summer’ sits the first single of the album: ‘C’est La Vie’. Upon first hearing the track it is hard to deny its catchy, finger tapping quality. It would even be an easy mistake believing it was produced by a younger band or at least one of the indie/pop persuasions. Lead singer Kelly Jones notes that the song is intended to be an “uplifting… optimistic record” and although it does serve this purpose, it is close to indefinable as a Stereophonics track.
‘C’est la Vie’ acts as a step away from the rest of the album, standing apart on the record with its different, albeit slightly pop-like, tone. Along with the track ‘Sing Little Sister’ it brings an upbeat relief from the slower and deeper sounding pieces of the album. However, with Kelly Jones’ signature vocals and the familiar guitar swells featuring heavily in the rest of the record, the fans of the band are able to slip back into the reliable pattern of Stereophonics’ style of music.
True, the feel of the album is decidedly less rock orientated than previous albums such as ‘Performance and Cocktails’ and ‘Pull the Pin’, however, despite the slight change in tone, the album lacks anything that could stand out as original in the now crowded alternative-rock genre, let alone the band’s discography history. It’s reliable and familiar, but without any freshness that a ninth album arguably needs.
IT’S RELIABLE AND FAMILIAR, BUT WITHOUT ANY FRESHNESS THAT A NINTH ALBUM ARGUABLY NEEDS
The stand out unreleased track on the album would be ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’, which makes its mark on the record through its simple but stirring lyrics. Other tracks also tell good stories, which is a strength of both the new album and of Kelly Jones’ past lyrical work. A track that exemplifies this on ‘Keep the Village Alive’ is the sobering ‘My Hero’. The song alludes to a friend who became a soldier and the lines such as “You gave us what we know/But now you have to go” along with the repetition of “my hero” encourage the listener to reflect on the story being told.
Overall, the lyrically strong tracks, combined with the lulling vocals of Kelly Jones, are sure to keep the long-term fans satisfied. However, with the album lacking any original sound or feel for the band, Stereophonics may want to focus less on keeping the village alive and more on keeping it awake.