I know what you're thinking. It's been almost a decade since The Strokes led the garage rock battle-charge and reinvigorated the pop landscape, but isn't it time to move on? How many more interminable "The" bands can we endure? Apparently, the glam rock caterwauling of The Fratellis wasn't enough to nip it in the bud. Perhaps the dreary foppishness of The Kooks then? Well actually, that just about did it. Although their name suggests otherwise, The Script don't sound anything like the aforementioned bands. Hurrah!
Opening with We Cry, the group kick off their self-titled debut with all the pristine soulfulness of the pop rockers Maroon 5. With nods to both hip-hop and US radio rock on almost every song, it might surprise listeners to discover that The Script's hometown is Dublin. Growing up in the shadow of Britpop, frontman Danny O'Donoghue and guitarist Mark Sheehan shunned Ladrock in favour of the more enduring allure of hip-hop and soul. Although their hometown was in the midst of a period of rapid growth and change, hip-hop was still hard to come by and the pair reportedly had to stay up late to catch their music of choice on MTV.
It's no surprise, however, that the R&B-tinged first single was a bona fide smash. All the ingredients are there. O'Donoghue's lead vocals fall somewhere between those of Sting and Justin Timberlake. Sheehan's guitar is precise and gloriously funky and the drums sound so tight they must be spring loaded. But it's the production work that's the most refined. The self-recorded disc is thick with the sort of sleek soul-powered wizardry capable of making waves on both sides of the Atlantic. Perhaps such expertise stems from the late Nineties, when O'Donoghue and Sheehan went to the US to work as session musicians and studio hands.
Although We Cry is the stand out single, the record is full of pop hooks and catchy choruses. Before the Worst continues the North American pop sound before Talk You Down, in which the band experiments with fast-meets-slow territory broken by The Police with Ghost In the Machine. The ska rock flavour of Sting's band is noticeable in a different way on Rusty Halo. The singles Breakeven and The Man Who Can't Be Moved both owe more than a little to Coldplay and Keane, however. The soaring ballads are as well-refined as anything on the former band's last album, but crucially, nowhere near as believable. Therein lies The Script's biggest flaw. How can a band that sounds this complete have so little of interest to say? Although strong melodies and musicianship are undoubtedly there, it's difficult to work out the point of it all.
Even the remarkably sappy Maroon 5 have more personality in their songs than anything this Irish group have to offer. Despite this, the album's list of influences makes quite a statement. Like Jamie Lidell's Jim, it manages to avoid being derivative by offering up a faithful homage to its forebears. The album boasts lush production and a seemingly never ending run of stadium-sized choruses. This will certainly delight DJs and teenyboppers, but others may find it easy to hate. Most irritatingly, there's hardly a second on the album that's free of O'Donoghue's vocals. Although that's not unusual in the sparseness of R&B-land, at times on this essentially guitar-driven release, it is more than a little tiresome. Sure, he can sing, but doesn't he ever stop?
Despite coming across as a somewhat shallow mash of the world's top-selling artists, the album is still hideously catchy. Let there be no doubt that The Script have and will move a staggeringly large amount of units. What they lack in depth or personality, they almost recover in simple fun and punchy singalongs. It's just a little too well scripted.