As it’s now a legal obligation to mention Arctic Monkeys whenever reviewing a band from Sheffield, let’s get it out the way right at the start. Yes, Little Man Tate do sing in Yorkshire accents, they’ve got an ear for a catchy guitar fuelled tune and specialise in pithy observational lyrics about everyday life.
Yet before you think “hmmm great, the new Milburn“, and move on, not so fast. That really is where the similarities end with Alex Turner’s lot, and a couple of listens to their debut album confirm that they’ve got a definite personality of their own.
In Jon Windle for one thing, they have a man who really knows how to pen a chorus catchier than the average bout of flu. Every song on here is destined for the indie dancefloor, made to be bellowed along to in the throng of a frenzied moshpit and could even be whistled by your friendly local postman.
Those songs are populated by some perfectly sketched characters – there’s the cross-dressing hooligan of Court Report, the bisexual girl with a love of rave music in Down With Marie and the man spurned by his girlfriend who’s gone travelling in European Lover. They’re all pithily written and come complete with some memorable couplets (“Marie’s delectable, just turned bisexual” for example).
Sexy In Latin though is probably the band’s most perfectly realised moment – opening with a cracking guitar riff, it rushes through a glorious three minutes like a cleaned up Dirty Pretty Things, enhanced by some lovely lyrics about childhood sweethearts who have grown apart. Get ready for the chorus to be sung at every festival this coming summer.
Despite the band’s sometimes overtly laddish image (lines such as “are those great boobs or a Wonderbra” may put off some as being rather too salacious), there’s a definite tenderness here which sets Little Man Tate apart from their contemporaries. It’s in the wistful lyrics of European Lover and most explicitly in the wonderful This Must Be Love, with lyrics that recall Sheffield’s finest Jarvis Cocker.
Admittedly there are some moments that grate. Three Day Rule relies rather too heavily on the singalong chorus, while Who Invented These Lists, despite some inventive lyrics about shallow celebrity culture, just comes across as a bad Kaiser Chiefs B-side, even down to the “woooahhh” chorus.
House Party At Boothys is also one of the less inspired moments, although it’s saved by some truly excellent lyrics from Windle describing the average house party. From the “scenesters dancing in their V neck sweaters” to “girls singing to Kylie, trying to look sexy”, it’s a brilliantly observed piece of writing.
Even better, they’ve resisted the temptation to include the rather underwhelming early singles The Agent and What What You Got meaning that the album clocks in at a very compact 33 minutes, never overstaying its welcome. In an age where indie is the new mainstream, expect Little Man Tate to be regular fixtures in the charts this year. In the long role-call of Sheffield talent (Turner, Hawley, Cocker, Long Blondes etc), we can now add a new name to that stellar list.