Album Reviews

Sports Team – Deep Down Happy

(Island) UK release date: 5 June 2020

Sports Team - Deep Down Happy Sports Team are a band out of time, a total anachronism. They could be from 1995 or 2005, but certainly not from 2020. They make light, springy, wordy indie rock of the finest quality, coming off at most points on this debut record like cross between a family friendly Parquet Courts, a posh Cribs and a hyper-caffeinated Maxïmo Park.

Their songs are zany, kooky and somewhat funny, like the grandchildren of songs Pavement made before the band were even born. Their hooks are memorable, and the hummable guitar parts across the record are plentiful. But there’s one huge problem. Sports Team are fulfilling all of the criteria needed to qualify as a has-been band in the making.

We’ve seen it all before: they’ve sold out large venues after a couple of EPs, maintain a ‘controversial’ press presence, are lauded/overhyped by the NME, have insulted bands that are better than them, and have ruined their own album release by pulling a pointless stunt. Something about this debut album holds immense promise, but then so did Palma Violets’. A few short years ago, you might remember, hotly-tipped Birmingham band Superfood were headlining a tour for Dirty Hit (The 1975’s record label). They had their farewell gig last April. Peace (another Birmingham band) were everywhere between 2013 and 2015, garnering rave reviews and adoring fans. Where are they now?

Hopefully, Sports Team are not going anywhere. On Deep Down Happy, they have a few absolute gems, and a few non-starters. The standout track is Here’s The Thing, an undeniable, shaggy guitar chugalong descended from the Velvets and the Pavements and the Televisions of this world.

Long Hot Summer, Kutcher and Feels Like Fun are all highlights, but they’re hard to distinguish from one another, seeing as they’re all mid-to-speedy indie rockers with the same annoying vocals, angular guitar lines and rather splendid drumming. Going Soft and Born Again are also winners, with their spritely, bouncy rhythms and choppy guitars.

There are a few moments on here (Lander, The Races) that cut it close, especially with their semi-ironic attempts to take down gentrified culture and make a mockery of the families who supply the children who attend their shows. Remember when Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods attacked IDLES for being posh? Imagine how he’d deal with this bunch of Tarquins.

So the debut album is done, and it’s a good one. But are Sports Team going to break our hearts? Are they another Peace? Superfood? Palma Violets? Rat Boy? Swim Deep? Spring King? Viva Brother? Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong? Terris? The Dead 60s? Who knows. But if this is to be their one-and-done, or their defining artistic statement, then it’s a good one. Let’s just leave it at that for now. Let the kids enjoy their album bundles and their signed CDs for as long as they can.

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Sports Team – Deep Down Happy