Probably the biggest thing to hail from Blackwood, Wales so far have been everyone’s favourite art punks Manic Street Preachers. That a band so opinionated, contrived, and so full of rhetoric could come from Blackwood seemed to be what shocked people the most. Lear also happen to come from Blackwood, but on this showing it is unlikely that they will be challenging the status quo and upsetting music journalists left right and centre.
Lear have been around for a while now, having formed in 2000. Since then they’ve had accolades heaped upon them, and have caused quite a stir on the live circuit. Quite how this has happened is something of a mystery if this album is anything to go by. It’s just all so nice, and so middle aged.
Things start well with Sunshine, there’s a busy guitar riff, a whiny Liam Gallagher vocal that gives way to a fairly pleasant chorus and, most importantly, handclaps and plenty of whooping backing vocals – a good old fashioned rock and roll tune. Surely they can’t go wrong from here…can they?
Well, it’s not too long before Lear run aground upon the well intentioned but dreadful Jackie & Julie. A story of same sex love involving two lap dancers, Jackie & Julie has the dubious honour of containing some of the worst lyrics committed to CD:”Boys back home said ‘well you’re the same gender’/But that’s ok, you’ve found something real and tender”
Most boys don’t think like that, as far as I know. If Lear wrote a song about what boys really think about lesbian lapdancers, they’d never get any airplay, just lots of gigs with The Macc Lads. As it is, Jackie & Julie sounds like Bryan Adams covering Lesbian Seagull.
Terrible lyrics aside, Lear specialise in the kind of rock that young people have no business listening to. Remember the kid at school who was inexplicably obsessed with Meatloaf? The one who dressed like a thirty-five year old man? These are the kind of people who would probably like Lear.
That said, Barman features some lovely overwrought vocals, as does Scratch, which is one of the most interesting songs here. If you can forget for a moment the somewhat awful drug addiction lyrics, there’s some real quality here. It’s a well-measured song, and Rob Lear’s vocals could well be something special.
It’s just a shame that Lear seem content to write songs that seem destined for MOR radio. Put it this way, the song that closes the album, Set My Body Free, tries hard to be the kind of gospel rock that Primal Scream were writing around the time of Give Out But Don’t Give Up. Instead it is more reminiscent of the kind of thing you might hear emanating from a Christian Youth Centre.
A little more bite is what is required, a smidgen of attitude. Come back when you’ve changed your name to Leer, and then we’ll talk.