Amid the hype and excitement of the Stands official biography you can’t help but notice that Howie Payne seems to smart a little at his band being saddled with the retro label. It has earned them the kiss-of-death patronage of **Noel Gallagher** and the attendant big tours with Oasis so their mood is obviously defiant; as a result there is little on their sophomore album that is likely to thwart their critics. Sigur Ros this ain’t, but in spite of this there are times when the approach pays off. Album opener Turn the World Around is as good a slice of pop songwriting as can probably be produced by a guitar led band and likewise You Said brings the album to an affecting close. It’s a welcome moment of emotion as unfortunately the songs inbetween are completely hamstrung by the band’s obvious love of Help-era Beatles.
They make no secret of it; Do It Like You Like rips off the melody to _Ticket to Ride_ so comprehensively that it must be a pastiche, though even after repeated listens it’s hard to be sure. Nearer than Green could be another high point but for the layered harmonies sounding so like John and Paul in their heyday that this might easily be coming from a tribute band. Elsewhere songs are punctuated by duelling guitars and numbers about dancing with girls in the evening that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a sixties skiffle bar. Amidst all this Mountain Blue and the World through my Window is a welcome respite; spared the Bootleg-Beatle vocal, it’s an example of what the band could achieve if they toned down their influences and wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack of a French arthouse movie.
Payne would no doubt write such opinions off as lazy reviewing and an inability to appreciate the depth of the songs but bands like the Coral and the Zutons (with whom the band are keen to align themselves) have shown that it’s possible to be a modern beat combo from Liverpool and not carry around the ghost of its most famous musical export. The fact that at times the Stands show that they obviously don’t need to doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
5John Winters's Score