It’s simple really, if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best and then just make sure you’ve got the balls to front it out. Kicking off your album with what is effectively the riff from Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and then turning it into a psychedelic northern soul juggernaut is a perfect example of this in action. But then bizarrely just as the band have captured my imagination, it appears that that was enough of that, and they would spend the rest of the album settling into a comfortable AOR groove.
The letdown is considerable: after the acid soul of opener ‘Quicksilver’ the stodge that follows is particularly unpalatable, and we have to wade through nine more Travis-lite tracks before they remember to do something interesting again. Only with ‘Until The End’ and a reprise of ‘Quicksilver’ do the band come alive again: for the intervening forty minutes it’s all baleful acoustic numbers or dull middle of the road pseudo-indie rubbish.
What’s worse though are the lyrics. ‘It’s not easy being real, what’s in my head is how I feel’ the singer whines on ‘I Wonder How’. Hardly Dylan, now is it. It wouldn’t really matter so much if the band weren’t so obviously trying to be deep and meaningful. You’d like to think bassist Si Jones and guitarist Simon Tong would know better, having previously been in The Verve, one of the few genuinely world class bands to have emerged during the Brit-Pop years. But True Skies fails to deliver on so many levels.
Finally as the album draws to a close the band stop trying to sound like a third rate Travis and crank things up again, but it’s too little, too late, and just further drives home what a wasted opportunity this album is. Over-produced but under-developed, ‘True Skies’ has more of the feel of a band’s second or third album, where commercial pressures are starting to take their toll on creativity. For a first album on an independent label, there are none of the rough edges you’d expect, the mistakes and risks that add a thrill, and that get harder to create as a band grows up. Instead they’ve gone straight for commercial success with a bland radio-friendly sound, but one that is indistinguishable from any number of other one-trick guitar bands.