After spending the summer on the festival circuit, Stereophonics release their ninth studio album 'Keep The Village Alive'; the follow-up to 2013's platinum-selling 'Graffiti On The Train'. A series of shows across Europe will be followed by a ten-date UK arena tour in December, culminating at the O2 Arena in London.
Recent single 'C'est La Vie' opens the record in urgent fashion, with vocalist Kelly Jones sounding as if he could trip over the lyrics at any point. It's a good-time tune with an energy that isn't seen regularly enough from the quartet. 'White Lies' is a shimmering attempt at arena balladry that may not be ground-breaking, but is hard to dismiss, while the influence of The Black Crowes is very much evident on the swaggering blues-rock of 'Sing Little Sister'. Those who criticise the band for being too safe will have further fuel with the radio-friendly 'I Wanna Get Lost With You', something of a generic drive-anthem, while 'Song For The Summer' is a sweeping number which utilises orchestral arrangements.
Based on a hypnotically looping piano line, 'Fight Or Flight' is an interesting number that may not be to everyone's liking. It has foundations in the cinematic sound of the previous album and builds to a climatic end, as does a highlight of this release titled 'Sunny'. The lyrics are at times lazy, a surprise given Jones is a heralded wordsmith, but it is some of the band's best playing of the last decade. 'Into The World' could test the patience of even dedicated fans, but 'Mr And Mrs Smith' will certainly have them back on board - it's another fun romp to get fans dancing and, should the band be brave enough to do so, could replace 'Dakota' as a show closer. Like much of 'Keep The Village Alive' it is more commercially-minded than the material of the last couple of Stereophonics albums - and this isn't a bad thing for an outfit with a not inconsiderable catalogue of hits. Detractors who may hope the band fade into heritage act status will have to continue waiting, while fans will no doubt enjoy this collection of mainly fine rock-pop moments.
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