Since they formed in 2013 Hooton Tennis Club have self-released a trio of E.P's, signed to Heavenly Recordings, released their first single in February of 2015, debuted their solo album, 'Highest Point In Cliff Town' in the same year, and released a further 5 singles, two of them cut from this their second album, 'Big Box Of Chocolates'. These four Wirral boys certainly don't hang around and wait for things to happen, they are forging their own path and making things happen.
Hooton Tennis Club's second album in as many years follows broadly in the footsteps of its predecessor with a clutch of guitars jangling and revolving through casually sung stories about a string of acutely observed characters and events. Throughout it's difficult to pin-point the band's lineage with all manner of subtle influences being heard throughout. At times they're almost American, coming across somewhere between Ben Folds and The Lemonheads but then you hear Athlete, The Verve, Teenage Fanclub or even The Coral interwoven into the blanket of sound so associated with some of the North-West's finer bands.
As much as you want to like something however, there has to be something that you can latch onto, something that captures your imagination, endears itself to you or in some way makes a connection. Whilst there is much to appreciate on 'Big Box Of Chocolates' there is definitely less than I was anticipating. After repeated listening I'm still left a little under whelmed. The album certainly has charm in its characterisation, 'Meet Me At The Molly Bench' for example has a great, almost B&S title and concept, lovely bicycle bell accessorisation and looping rhythm but it's still not quite enough. 'Bootcut Jimmy The Genius' is similarly well caught with its descriptive humour of the engaging protagonist as is the more driven 'Lazers Linda'.
The best part of the album, for me, though has to be the sequential four tracks that contain both of the albums singles to date. Starting with the understated and reflective, 'Sit Like Ravi', break through single 'Katy-Anne Bellis', to one of the most melodic tracks on the album, 'Oh Man, Won't You Melt Me?' and finishing with the pyscho-billy infused 'Statue Of The Greatest Woman I Know'.
'Oh Man Won't You Melt Me', has a less anxious and more considered vocal, but with a burst of fuzzy guitars and even a hint of The All Seeing Eye heard in the mix whilst 'Statue Of The Greatest Woman I Know' ramps up the pace, and the feedback, through a rhythmic delight. It's here more than ever that the band sound in their element, show their potential and highlight their promise. Elsewhere on twelve tracks this is not always the case. Opener 'Growing Pains' sounds a little too mundane, even with the spoken word intermission and even the finale, and title track, 'Big Box Of Chocolates' seems just to be going through the motions rather than having any real spirit or ambition.
You can't like all of everything every time and sadly on this occasion the latest album from Hooton Tennis Club has not done enough to make me want to give it more than just polite consideration. A saddening apathy is how I would describe my feelings towards 'Big Box Of Chocolates' which is a shame as I was expecting so much more, never mind, maybe next time? (Which given their output rate to date won't be very long!)
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