Stereophonics
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Stereophonics – You Gotta Go There To Come Back (released 02.06.03)

Kelly Jones has never disguised the fact that he wants his band to be challenging for the debatable privilege of being the biggest rock band in the world. Their fourth album will do nothing to hinder the Welshman’s grand scheme. Perhaps more unexpectedly the new release may quell the critical sniping that the band have suffered from the music press.

The ‘build them up to knock them down’ backlash is based on the feelingthat the band have been creatively treading water since their refreshing debut, ‘WordGets Around’, which had chorus’ as big as drummer Stuart Cable’sbouffant hair.

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It is obvious Jones has been hanging out with Led Zeppelin lovers The Black Crowes, because there is bluesy guitar noodling aplenty on the album. When the band rock they do a fine job of it, but that is only one aspect of the album, as there is more variety on ‘You Gotta Go There To Come Back’ than on any of their previous offerings. There is an unexpectedly lo-fi approach to a couple of tracks and there are still the crowd pleasing acoustic sing-a-longs to keep packing them in at the Millenium Stadium.

The album kicks off with, ‘Help Me’, an epic track indulging in hugedoses of Led Zep riffage. The Stereophonics tendency to occasionally sound likethree blokes hammering away at their instruments has been cured by the thoughtfulintricacies added to every song. This is particularly evident on following track, ‘MaybeTomorrow’, where the blustering is tamed, and a more soulful vibe createdby the addition of vocal support.

Jones has a Marmite voice that fans love and critics cite as the reason for findingthe ‘phonics unbearable. He seems to have responded to this criticism bytempering the bellowing, with frequent contributions from backing singers andthe addition of vocal effects. Jones restrains himself on ‘Getaway’,where the lo-fi melodicism approaches the understated effect REM generated on ‘Up’.

Lyrically the album is clearly demarcated between the perceptive and mindless.The blues rock-outs contain lyrics seemingly designed to keep the focus on thevirtuoso guitar playing, during ‘High As The Ceiling’ Jones sings: “Comeon get up high as the ceiling; Get up on the floor.” In contrast albumcloser, ‘Since I Told You It’s Over’ has the Rod Stewart balladeeringgrowl in full coruscating flow: “I never ever meant to make you cry; IfI could take it back you know I would; I want to burn up and die.”

Kelly Jones is making his debut as an album producer on this record, and he hasdone an exceptional job. The band is complimented by emotive string, piano, andorgan embellishments that maximise the songs potential without overpowering thetune. ‘You Gotta Go There To Come Back’ is the sound of a band justifiablyconfident in their own abilities. World domination moves inevitably and deservedlycloser.

Gavin Eves