Stereophonics have been one of the biggest UK rock acts since the late 90s, with a string of hits from ‘Have a Nice Day’ to ‘Dakota’. They have been on a rich vein of form with two commercially and critically successful albums in the last few years, 2013’s Graffiti on the Train and 2015’s Keep the Village Alive. Thus expectations were inevitably high for Scream Above the Sounds. I’m impressed that they have released a new studio record, rather than playing it safe and going for another greatest hits release or a re-release of their debut album Word Gets Around, which so many bands seem to do at present.
I’m impressed that they have released a new studio record
The album kicks off in style with ‘Caught by the Wind’, which is sure to be a fan favourite. The second track off the album, ‘Taken A Tumble’, perfectly encapsulates the ‘Phonics’ sound, more than any track on the album for me and one which would not be out of place on the band’s other releases. ‘What’s All The Fuss About?’ is a more experimental track, with background acoustic guitar, creating an almost flamenco sound and a horn section accompanying Kelly Jones’ vocals as the song builds to its climax. ‘Geronimo’ is perhaps a sign of the band playing it safe a tad, with rather uninspiring lyrics and it is one of the more forgettable songs from the album. ‘All in One Night’, the album’s lead single, is a story of several interwoven stories occurring in the early hours of the morning and showcase’s Jones’s vocals.
‘Chances Are’ is sure to be a live favourite of the band, with its swirling anthem-esque guitar riff mid track and is one of the rockier numbers on the record, reminiscent of some of the work from the band’s early albums. The juxtaposition with the next track is startling, ‘Before Anyone Knew Our Name’ reflects on the band before fame and is a laid back piano-lead track, with emphasis on the band’s late drummer Stuart Cable, who was part of the band for a decade and died in 2010. ‘Would You Believe?’ is perhaps another track where the band play it safe, it’s not awful by any stretch, but won’t set the world alight. ‘Cryin’ In Your Beer’ is a rollicking track that again has a jazzy feel to it, with an extended sax solo; for me the ‘Phonics should make more tracks like this, which highlight their stadium rock capabilities. ‘Elevators’ is a solid album closer, again highlighting Jones’ gruff vocals.
Overall the album carries on the strengths from the last two records, adding unexpected depth and creativity in places, however there are signs of fatigue. I’d say there is more good than bad and that the record is definitely worth a listen and shows there’s life in Wales’ finest yet. The ‘Phonics are on tour early in the new year which is sure to be a treat, with gigs across the UK in February and March.