There is a school of thought currently being suggested that the current obsession with Pop Idol and all things manufactured may have a positive effect on the music industry. The theory runs that the more popular that Will Young, Gareth Gates and the like become, the greater a need for good old-fashioned guitar music. If this is the case, then Nottingham’s Six By Seven have timed their return just right.
Six By Seven formed a good 10 years ago, but didn’t release their first album The Things We Make until 1998. By that time they’d built up a steady base of loyal fans without ever threatening to break into the mainstream. The band have an image of being raw, uncompromising and downright loud, and more sensitive souls could be forgiven for approaching the new album with a certain amount of trepidation.
However, opening track So Close begins so much like early Radiohead it could be an out-take from The Bends. A steadily building piano chord opens the song before the band crank up the volume and vocalist Chris Olley passionately declares “I adore your conversation…I adore just who you are”. It’s a terrific opening track, and is nearly matched by recent single I.O.U. Love. Both tracks are distinguished by a radio-friendly chorus and unashamedly romantic lyrics (“You are the atom that started life…you are cosmic and I love you” is just one example).
This is certainly the most commercial album that Six By Seven have released. All My New Best Friends sounds rather like the Levellers performing an Embrace cover version – but it has to be said that they sound much more comfortable rocking out, as the following track, the blistering Flypaper For Freaks indicates.
It’s a shame that the quality of the first half of the record isn’t sustained into the second half. There is a decent song in Karen O but the avalanche of overlayered guitars somewhat buries it. The anthemic American Beer’s lyrics touch on the political with the rather clunky “They say there’s no more IRA to fear, there’s no more Cold War atmosphere” before Olley screams ‘Nobody told me it would be like this” over and over again. The effect should be epic, but feels strangely empty.
Things pick up at the end of the record with the viscous Cafeteria Rats, a powerful attack on people who talk up imaginary achievements in order to hide an empty life, and the final track Bad Man which is two and a half minutes of pure self-loathing distilled into a short, sharp parting shot.
The Way I Feel Today is certainly a success in some parts, but this ultimately makes it a frustrating listen. The excellence of the early tracks on this album sadly serves to highlight the shortcomings in some of the less accomplished songs. Rather like the recent release by Biffy Clyro, a little more subtlety and less earnestness would have made a huge difference in transforming this album into a successful whole.