Sometimes it may be wrong to judge a book by its cover, but at others you can be pretty sure that behind a terrible ’80s-soft-rock CD cover reminiscent of Dio, Rainbow or Marillion is likely to lie a pretty terrible soft rock CD. In other words, South don’t get off to a very good start and from there it’s going to take a bit more than some dreary pub-rock ballads with pretensions to New Order to win them any favours.
The London-based trio, consisting of Joel Cadbury on lead vocals and bass, Jamie McDonald on lead guitar and vocals and Brett Shaw on drums, have been going for seven years now, and this is their third album. All three have been on different labels, which might give you just an inkling that they’re maybe not the best band in the world.
At the end of the month, after a tour that’s taken in the giddy heights of – wait for it – Cobden Working Men’s Club – they’re heading off to the States to support The Strokes latest tour and you really can’t help but feel that Julian and the lads could have done better for themselves.
South’s boring guitar-solo laden dirges such as You Are One and What Holds Us (yes, even the titles sound like Snow Patrol on a particularly dull day) are unlikely to be damaging any ‘best of’ lists at the end of this year or any other. The best endorsement their PR company seems to be able to drag out of their previous works is that Peter Hook thinks “they’re a bunch of Jesses”. Which means it’s not really worth thinking about what anyone else has said about them.
They’re not completely terrible. Their music won’t damage your ears or insult you, it’s just quite spectacularly dull, the material of a band who’d be better off playing Led Zeppelin covers at Butlins or the local bingo house on new talent night. This may go down well with the US stadium masses, but then again, maybe not.
The production doesn’t help matters, unfortunately. When they’re trying to be quiet and ‘sensual’ they’re often too quiet, with long periods when the music can’t actually be heard at all unless you turn the volume up enough to be deafened when they decide it’s time to inflict another guitar solo on you.
There are some moments worth mentioning. Know Yourself is alright, mainly thanks to the addition of Pearl Lowe’s vocals – the higher, thinner female voice actually complements the weakness of the music she’s singing over. But they’re few and far between and the occasional nod to New Order-style guitar licks and keyboards doesn’t rescue it.
All of the above doesn’t automatically mean that Adventures In The Underground… won’t be a success. There are probably a million middle American homes with teenagers who think having a poodle perm is a sign of real rebellion, man, that are just waiting to air guitar to stuff like this. And there may even be people in the UK who are cursing the day that Snow Patrol went too noisy who will equally love South. I’m just not one of them.