Stereophonics- Language. Sex. Violence. Other? (V2)
review by Joe del Tufo

Track Listing

1. Superman
2. Doorman
3. Brother
4. Devil
5. Dakota
6. Rewind
7. Pedalpusher
8. Girl
9. Lolita
10. Deadhead
11. Feel

After three remarkable albums in the Welsh band Stereophonics released You Gotta Go There To Come Back. I listened to it constantly, certain that eventually I would get the direction the band was heading. After all, I’ve long been a proponent for evolution- that even a successful band with a good thing going should not pull an AC/DC and just release the same songs with different words every two years. You Gotta Go eventually just went, and I still insist that the songs were never there. With the exception of the excellent Maybe Tomorrow (and the afterthought Moviestar, only added to the UK version of the disc after it had been out for some time), the entire thing looked like an attempt to be something they clearly were not. Gone were the addictive choruses and storytelling anthems of their past, replaced by some attempt to sound like the Black Crowes as a garage band.

After a few listens to Language. Sex. Violence. Other? it seems that the title “You Gotta Go There To Come Back” was either prophetic or vocalist Kelly Jones was quite aware he was delivering something half baked. I say this because L.S.V.O? is head and shoulders above it every conceivable way. In fact, the lead track Dakota is the stongest, catchiest single since the band unleashed Have A Nice Day over four years ago.

Rather than return to their signature brand of hook-laden power pop, the Phonics have evolved their low-fi garage approach into something with a little more substance. L.S.V.O? arrives with 11 one-word titles, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Superman sets the tone with its raw (but infectious) guitar riffing, the chanty “You turn it on like leaking tap, dripping dropping people drop of a hat.” The track contains everything that was missing on You Gotta Go, with a memorable and interesting chorus, a soaring Kelly Jones guitar solo, and genuine energy. In the liner notes it says that this track set the tone for the album, and I would say that fits. “Superman on an aeroplane, sitting next to Lois Lane, You got that woman but you want her gone, so you can fuck a teenage blonde.”

Doorman follows with post punk energy and angst. Notable for the line “suck my banana, suck it with cream,” something conceptually unprecedented in a Kelly Jones lyric. Great spoken chorus and tempo changes, and another unhinged solo round this one out. Brother nibbles on Doorman’s heals with its funked out and edgy guitars. The “You got it wrong brother, can’t you see?” has the raspy, fuzzed-out delivery that did not work on the last disc, but here it’s just more pissed off, authentic. The song is the lyrical and musical equivalent of a bar fight.

Dakota is the anchor of this disc and, despite the presence of a number of excellent tunes, stands out as an achievement. Opening with Cars’-like keyboards, we are quicky dropped into plucky piano/ keys and Jones’ spoken/sung “Thinking back, thinking of you- Summertime think it was June- Yeah, think it was June.” Within a few seconds we are careering into the “You make me feel like the one” chorus, in all of its gruff, overdone glory. In summary, it is like every great rock song- dumb and meaningless, but infused with passion and the listener’s inability to detach from it.

Other great tracks pepper the disc- the jangly Rewind, complete with its thought-provoking “If you could rewind your time, would it change your life” chorus. Pedalpusher is catchy in an oddly synthetic way, and reminds me of the earlier Mr. Writer in both content and delivery. Girl is a veritable wall of guitars, Jones’ vocals barely rising above them.

Its great to be loving the Phonics again. Gone are the anthems, but they have been replaced by tracks that will clearly rock out live. I think Language. Sex. Violence. Other? succeeds as a guitar-driven album where You Gotta Go There failed as an attempt to be the flavor of the month. Kelly and the boys have made a focused effort to move in a new direction, and I’m happy to say, they have arrived.

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