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Return To The Last Chance Saloon
(Superior Quality/All formats)

In this age of almost puritanical seriousness where epic ballads of self-doubt hold sway and songs which milkmen can whistle are frowned upon, the return of the popsome Hounslow foursome is a welcome relief.

It's been two years since their debut, since then Britpop has crashed taking lesser bands with it. The delay apparently has much to do with the dreaded second album syndrome: they'd used up all their songs written over the course of a decade on the first and found it difficult facing a new one. And allegedly losing the master tapes of the finished album on a train from Wales probably didn't help much either. A rockier sound dominates the album, although not as Zepified as their notorious chief influence, The Stone Roses, had second time around. The Jub-Jub Bird kicks off a deep sexy groove like Personal Jesus by Depeche Mode before they cop out with a chorus wetter than a month in Manchester. Fortunately, 4-Day Weekend goes the full distance when, after a gentle strum, guitarist Adam Devlin shrugs, stamps on the distortion pedals and it turns into their most rifftastic hip-shaking effort yet. Even Mark Morriss's voice sounds like it's been pumping iron. A little. This time round, the vocals are more than just another instrument in the mix. Sleazy Bed Track even has Morriss as weary Casanova forced into one more seduction before the chorus has him coming on like an indie Mark Morrison: "Climb up here with me/And let's forget about sleep". But elsewhere on If... and Sky Will Fall they're just cruising in neutral and letting the jangle do the work for them before something better comes along. They've rejected serious innovation in favour of a slightly beefier sound, some treated vocals, a couple of lines mumbled in Spanish and a Star Trek red alert siren. That said, the troubles surrounding the album don't show and it has greater range than its predecessor. What it lacks, however, is a pop gem as immediate and catchy as Slight Return. Nothing less should have been offered.

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*** (3/5)

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Anthony Thornton

Extracted from Sunday Telegraph, March 1998