Monday, October 15, 2007

Stereophonics - Pull The Pin (V2)

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Stereophonics live life as one of those bubbling-under bands, who’ll enjoy success, fame and acclaim to an impressive level, yet it’ll only ever be 80% of that enjoyed by whichever buzz band the chattering classes are wanking over that month.

But let’s take a closer look. Five previous albums each dripping with attitude, a reluctant sex symbol tag thrust upon Kelly Jones, recent arm-slicing paparazzi action, and of course, the firing of Stuart Cable that implied a level of in-fighting worthy of the first six incarnations of Destiny’s Child. All things considered, they’re actually quite the headline act. And now, the Stereophonics have finally made an album deserving of their status.

Pull The Pin, their sixth studio album, and by far the most rock-heavy, comes equipped with a certain swagger. Just the right side of arrogance, but high on musicality, it’s the perfect album from a band of this calibre, at a point in their career where they can afford to take stock of their victories.

The graft ’n’ grit arrangement of opener Soldiers Make Good Targets immediately underlines that the melodic crawl of It Means Nothing isn’t any indication of Pull The Pin’s overall theme. Similarly, the likes of My Friends and Bank Holiday Monday thunder along, leaving any such forecasts spluttering in their dust.

An abundance of masculine posturing, resilient revving and extreme vivacity make for a far more consistent album than Language.Sex.Violence.Other, which simultaneously provided some of the best and worst material of the Stereophonics’ career. And yet, Pull The Pin doesn’t suffer in the slightest from its comparable lack of versatility. Thematic without feeling contrived, it benefits massively from its steadiness and its defined identity.

That’s not to say it’s wall-to-wall pedal-to-the-metal. Bright Red Star functions as an acoustic breather from the testosterone, markedly different and yet somehow, incredibly comfortably-placed amongst the charged rock.

As far as negatives go, you’d be hard pushed to come up with any that’d carry the slightest weight. Incidentally, the furthest that we got was the cover artwork which, while impressive, is reminiscent of that snooty bitch in The Apprentice who didn’t like the way Team Stealth (or was it Eclipse?) interpreted her overpriced lips nonsense. And hey, it could have been the Stupid Titties & Fish as endorsed by Tre…

On the whole, Pull The Pin provides the Stereophonics with a potent, defining album, and provides the listener with a powerful ride through adept musicianship and rock star sensibilities. Of course, an inch further across that line would be the crossover between confidence and arrogance. And yet, you couldn’t blame them for believing the hype - it’s incredibly well-earned.

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