When Word Gets Around was released in 1997, the Stereophonics were one of the most promising young bands around. Kelly Jones’ carefully crafted vignettes about life in small town Wales were both affecting and exciting, and Stewart Cable and Richard Jones made for a superb rhythm section.
Sadly, it’s all gone a bit pear shaped for the boys from Cwmaman since those heady early days. Performance And Cocktails, while having some memorable moments, was a disappointment and Just Enough Education To Perform was just plain dull.
Now along comes this clumsily titled album, and it’s another crushing disappointment. In fact, You’ve Got To Go There To Come Back is so ordinary it makes Ocean Colour Scene sound exciting. The tone is set by the seemingly endless opening track Help Me (She’s Out Of Her Mind) which plods along for a dirge like seven minutes before finally grinding to a halt.
Jones’ voice is as reliably raspy as ever, but there’s no passion and originality here. His lyrics too are a far cry from the mini-stories he previously specialised in, such as Traffic or Same Size Feet. Admittedly, we all have to move on, especially if you’re now a millionaire rock star recording albums in California rather than an ordinary boy from the valleys. Surely though he can do better than Jealousy (“my devil, my hell, insomnia” apparently) and the cringe-worthy first verse of Rainbows And Pots Of Gold (“I heard you’re doing well selling art and everything /I like your stuff, good for you, I’ll buy a piece or maybe two”).
It’s not all bad however – first single Madame Helga injects some badly needed energy where the rest of the album is palpably lacking, and Maybe Tomorrow is a light and breezy potential summer hit. I’m Alright meanwhile offers some genuine experimentation, which is refreshing after the mix of guitar bludgeons and languid, country-like ballads.
Perhaps part of the problem is that the album was produced by Kelly Jones himself. Maybe next time a more discriminating ear should be brought in to help the Stereophonics express the talent they undoubtedly possess. In the meantime though this is mediocre at best – frustrating as the ‘Phonics can do so much better.