The View - Bread and Circuses Album Review
There was something about that experience of first listening to The View's second album 'Which Bitch?' that will always live long in the memory. It wasn't that it was as hand gnawingly embarrassing as Robbie's Rat Pack farce Swing When Your Winning, or even as "What the hell?" as the Arctic Monkeys' fan-offloading Humbug, but the impression that the Dundonian's sophomore effort left behind was most definitely one not to be forgotten in a hurry.
So much so in fact that it's worth briefly recapping on the story. Led by the diminutive, mop haired Kyle Falconer, the four lads from Tayside had bulldozed their way into the hearts and minds of the post Libs generation with a fistful of ear catching singles - you know the ones - and a live act which made the Gallagher brothers look like Chelsea Pensioners. When Which Bitch arrived in 2009 it seemed that the path to Johnathan Ross was assured, only for the band to confront expectant fans with the likes of Distant Dubloon - a mock pirate shanty - and the awkward spectacle of Falconer "Rapping" through One Off Pretender. Despite being occasionally inspired, the apparent liberties being taken smacked of self indulgence, and whilst the hardcore lapped it up, the Asda crowd disappeared faster than you could say White Lies.
It didn't take a genius at their parent major label to figure out that the joke was seemingly on them, but Bread And Circuses is the kind of record so mainstream that you sense for the first time in the band's history, The View actually have a plan. With producer Owen Morris replaced by Youth, the first change has been to unlock the messages in Falconer's Tayside burr by having him enunciate the words properly. This might all sound a bit teacher-ish and to be clear it's not a process like that in Pygmalion, but at least now we no longer have to guess which ned is up to no good, and more seriously it does add a new dimension to a set of songs which prove that at full tilt, the quartet that are still a force to be reckoned with.
Nowhere is that more true than on the opener Grace, a chant along anthem that mines guitarist Pete Reilly's quarrelsome neighbour for lyrical inspiration. Immediately sounding better than anything on their last outing, any lingering suspicions that Youth has simply pulled the classic producer's trick of sticking the boss track on first are killed off shortly after by Tragic Magic, a harpsichord driven slice of shiny pop with a hook so big it could bankrupt a fleet of trawlers.
To that point it's simply The View doing what they do well, but even better, there is some experimentation here, although there's thankfully no need for eye patches and/or a cutlass; as proof Sunday wears its synths and piano with pride, although it's hard to imagine the boys from Delphic losing much sleep, whilst Life - written about the sudden death of Falconer's mother - is perhaps appropriately a fully-fledged orchestral ballad designed to be played in front of a thousand filming iPhones.
If the goal written up on the studio noticeboard every day as a reminder was "Take them with you this time", then Bread And Circuses is a undoubtedly a case of mission accomplished. There are one or two underwhelming moments - Girls lacks any kind of spark and Best Lasts Forever has the wee scamps cast as some sort of twenty-first century Bay City Rollers - but for once it seems the smart money was wrong, and Dryburgh's house band will live on to trash a hotel suite near you for some years to come yet.