I get a lot of packages thrust through my door these days, each one a fresh voyage of mystery. I approach each visit from the postman with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety, as you never really know what you are going to get. Sometimes there are the lows ("great, the new single from Fergie"). But occasionally there are moments when I rip open the jiffy and out pops an album that puts a genuine smile on my face. I was positively delighted to receive this album from The Bluetones, putting it on to listen to it the instant I got it. And, I'm pleased to report that all is well in Hounslow.
Mixed with my delight was an element of surprise, as I am sure that I am one of the many people who thought that The Bluetones had called it a day years ago. Four albums on a major label is pretty good going for anyone from the age of britpop, but now they find themselves with a nice warm roof over their head with the reasonably cuddly label Cooking Vinyl, who actually take care of their artists and seem to have an interest in the music as well as the money. Recorded at Chapel Studio with producer Hugh Jones (who also helmed their first two albums), they have produced an album packed with sparkling pop songs, which matches and at points exceeds the quality of their debut Expecting to Fly. Lead single My Neighbours House is possibly their finest song to date, a punchy, political stab at the general apathy of the nation set to a fantastic tune of blistering guitars.
Opening track Surrendered is very indicative of their old sound, tip-tapped drums with fruity guitars set to Mark Morriss's clear and sharp vocals. However, this album is much more than a re-tread of old ground and britpop. Songs like Baby, Back Up are cracking little pop nuggets, superbly appealing and full of life. Hope and Jump is a more delicate song, with a groaning cello. Head on a Spike is a twitchy number with a fast guitar sound, rumbling drums crossing the bridge into the chorus. Thank You, Not Today is also a highlight, shuffling along with a mix of acoustics and electrics.
The albums only low-point is the rather traditional Fade in / Fade out, a song written by Morriss for his friend David Walliams, at the time he was attempting his cross-channel swim. However, the lyrics take all of this rather too literally, and come across as rather sentimental rather than heart-felt. The music is good, but the lyrics leave a bit to be desired. However, the rest of the album more than makes up for this, finishing well with two excellent tracks, particularly Wasn't I Right About You, a glorious jaunty way to end things.
Bluetones in good album shocker?!? Well yes, despite their years, they have produced a quality release, full of great songs that doesn't wallow too much in the sound of their youth. To support this album the band are undertaking a tour of the UK in November. The dates are as follows:
12.11.2006 - Leeds Cockpit
13.11.2006 - Reading Fez Club
14.11.2006 - Cambridge Junction
16.11.2006 - Poole Mr Kypts
17.11.2006 - Sheffield Leadmill
18.11.2006 - Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
20.11.2006 - Glasgow King Tuts
22.11.2006 - Nottingham Rescue Rooms
24.11.2006 - Manchester Academy 2
25.11.2006 - Newcastle Uni
26.11.2006 - Liverpool Academy 2
28.11.2006 - Birmingham Academy 2
29.11.2006 - Bristol Academy
30.11.2006 - London Shepherds Bush Empire