After the soaring brilliance of The View’s Mercury Prize-nominated debut album Hats Off To The Buskers, which spawned a number of hit singles, the critical and commercial flop of the follow-up Which Bitch? was a sad comedown. The band’s enterprising efforts to try out different musical ideas ended up sounding like a self-indulgent hotch-potch.
Their notoriously riotous behaviour both on and off stage, while making them a great live band, seems to let have them down in the studio. So laissez-faire producer Owen Morris was ditched in favour of the more disciplined Youth, who has achieved outstanding results for a host of artists. And though the solid mainstream approach of Bread & Circuses does not spring any great musical surprises, it’s a thoroughly entertaining album which is very easy to listen to.
The 13 tracks, chiefly written by singer Kyle Falconer and bassist Kieren Webster, have strong tunes and rousing choruses, which no doubt will be sung with drunken glee at the festivals The View play at this summer. A strange mixture of laddish bravado and sentimental confession, the stories they tell reflect a hedonistic excess of sex, coke, booze and brawling in the apparent den of iniquity Dundee, interlaced with a few more mature moments of sober reflection.
Opener Grace, the pulsating second single off the album, was inspired by noise complaints from a neighbour against lead guitarist Pete Reilly. It’s an olive branch of sorts: “Let’s come to an agreement, there’s no need to get the police involved/ A minor little headache can be cured by a little resolve”, though played at full throttle, it would probably have the poor woman banging on the walls again.
Meat-and-potatoes rocker Underneath The Lights maintains the conciliatory approach: “I don’t care who’s wrong/ I just don’t want to go home alone.” Tragic Magic describes the wreckage of a weekend drug binge, while Girl is a much more chirpy song about a young woman nicking the band’s gear. Quietening the mood considerably, Life is an elegiac response to the death of Kyle’s mum.
The string-accompanied Friend is a surprisingly effective mellow disco number, in which the singer laments: “The girl that I’ve been speaking to all night/ Has left me for my friend.” The upbeat Beautiful has some nice licks from Reilly, while the catchy Blondie speaks of easy love: “I love it when you come/ I love it when you go.” First single Sunday is a forgettably lightweight ditty, but the paranoid claustrophobia of Walls makes more of an impact.
Loneliness is the theme of Happy, while in Best Lasts Forever (originally the album’s title), Kyle seems to be owning up to past failings: “I’ve been on my knees in so many streets/ And not just the ones in Dundee/ Fell on my face being a legless disgrace /10,000 laughing at me” – in order to move onwards with his life. The final, “hidden” track Witches is a dispensable extra not worth waiting for.
All in all, Bread & Circuses though more pub rock than punk, is at least a partial return to form for The View. The band seem to have cleaned up their act and focused once more on creating decent music (even if they forgot to tell drummer Steven Morrison, who was recently fined �900 for a street attack). The best may yet be to come for the feisty four, who are, when all’s said and done, still in their early 20s.