x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Stereophonics trying to push the envelope, with mixed results

Existing fans will find much to savour here, but the album is unlikely to win new converts. 

Stereophonics
Graffiti On the Train
(Stylus)
***

The Welsh rockers Stereophonics have long been reliably workmanlike, their safe but catchy singles such as 2001's Have A Nice Day full of populist appeal. One suspects they wouldn't be so successful were it not for the frontman Kelly Jones's gutsy, able voice, but their first seven studio albums - one every two years - marked them out as punctual grafters. The four-year gap between 2009's Keep Calm and Carry On and Graffiti On the Train signals a shake-up of sorts. Now freed from major-label shackles and on their own label, Stylus, the band have tried to push the envelope. Employing the sometime Bond-film scorer David Arnold pays dividends, Catacomb is a heady, full-pelt standout, and the album's atmospheric title track is one of Jones's best story songs to date. Elsewhere, the telegraphed choruses of Indian Summer and throwaway acoustic blues Been Caught Cheating find Stereophonics resting on their laurels but, to give Jones his due, he could make singing the telephone directory sound soulful. Existing fans will find much to savour here, but the album is unlikely to win new converts.

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