by Grant Foskett
Imagine you’re listening to your favorite U2 album. Now, squeeze all the emotion out of it and replace it with a healthy mix of feel-good anthemic lyrics and Kelly Jones’ awkward, twangy vocals. Now you know what Stereophonics sound like!
Scream Above The Sounds is the tenth studio album from UK superstars Stereophonics. The group has achieved six UK number one albums over the last twenty years doing largely the same thing over and over again. They create the kind of run-of-the-mill stadium rock that makes Coldplay seem experimental. In the past, they’ve been the kind of tolerable background music that you’d hear in some rundown pub and sigh, “yeah, I mean, I guess this is rock music.” And Scream Above The Sounds really isn’t any different. It’s got guitar, it’s got drums, it’s even got a trumpet, but that’s about it. There’s no originality, nothing that makes you think, and really not even anything that makes you want to dance. It’s just kind of boring.
Scream Above The Sounds opens with ‘Caught By The Wind’ and ‘Taken A Tumble,’ two feel good anthems featuring lyrics like ‘Believe you can fly / Celebrate everything” and “Yeah I’ve taken a stumble / Come on and pick me up.’ Both tracks are incredibly generic and vapid with little in the way of emotion. Sadly, they serve as a fairly accurate indicator of the remainder of the album. Next, however, comes ‘What’s All The Fuss About,’ a winding, down-tempo track featuring some beautiful trumpet and acoustic guitar work. This is definitely a high point of the album, though it does drone on for about a minute too long. ‘Geronimo’ and ‘Cryin’ In Your Beer,’ on the other hand, stick out as two of the album’s weakest songs. Both build on generic rock instrumentals with some incredibly awkward lyrics. Who really wants to hear Kelly Jones whine ‘We get a drink in the alley cat / You throw up under the tree / And then you laid down on the railroad tracks / Until I pissed on your feet?’ The only other track worth noting is ‘Before Anyone Knew Our Name.’ It’s a legitimately emotional ballad to the band’s late drummer Stuart Cable. Consisting of only a piano loop and Jones’ voice, it’s a standout track, but still feels rather uninspired. But really, how original can you be with a piano ballad?
I didn’t want to hate this record. But the fact that I found myself desperately looking for anything positive to say about it reflects rather poorly. There is no track on this album that I would ever willingly listen to again. It’s just painfully awkward and uninspired. I don’t think Kelly Jones was looking to make boring background music, but, in the end, that’s really all Scream Above The Sounds is.