Album Reviews

The Ordinary Boys – Over The Counter Culture

(B-Unique) UK release date: 5 July 2004

The Ordinary Boys - Over The Counter Culture There’s no getting away from it – The Ordinary Boys sound like The Jam with more than a fair dose of The Smiths for good measure (The Ordinary Boys is, after all, a Morrissey song, right?). As with most emerging British rock bands, they’re a little bit ’80s and write songs to revolve around catchy riffs. Standard stuff so far, let’s look a little deeper…

To go about things chronologically, album opener Over The Counter Culture adheres to the aforementioned criteria – it’s pretty much ’80s in all aspects, and, as a sly dig at those who flaunt their alternative nature as a selling point, contains vocal delivery and lyrical content sitting somewhere between Paul Weller and our old friend Morrissey, whilst not quite sounding as poignant as either.

Moving onwards to track two, I have to admit that I chuckled to myself a little. “I’ve heard it all done before / a hundred years ago or more / Originality is so passé” sings Preston in a highly inflected accent. There’s just one slight problem – both tracks so far could have, musically, at least, been left on the cutting room floor of any number of studios a couple of decades ago or so. That said, I don’t want to be too harsh – they are, admittedly, very catchy and enjoyable songs. It’s just that I’m not so sure that The Ordinary Boys are as original as they so overtly claim to be.

By track three my faith has been somewhat restored in the form of Week In Week Out; a track you’re sure to have heard on radio over the last few months. Again, it is exceptionally London-flavoured, but there’s no escaping that (the boys hail from Camden). Week In Week Out, is, for me, the highlight of the album. It certainly lacks the pretension that cripples some other tracks, and, amusingly, could be described as ‘Cockney ska minus the trumpets’. Score!

The selling points of Over The Counter Culture include some relatively clever lyrics, some truly memorable hooks and the not inconsiderable lack of contemporary influences: Talk Talk Talk taps the same nerve as Week In Week Out, only in a slightly more subtle manner, whilst Settle Down and In Awe Of The Awful should prove to be quite magnificent live tracks in the future. Let’s just hope you can look past the fact that Little Bitch starts excitingly well, but degenerates in a Madness tribute song (after all, it is, apparently, a Specials cover). Then again, that might be right up your alley.

I’d like to think that I am able to see the merits of music that I would not necessarily add to my own personal collection. I am supposed to be a music reviewer, after all. I have to say, to this end, that I can quite easily envision Over The Counter Culture becoming both a critical and commercial success over the summer. The vast majority of tracks are strong and polished, with vocals just screaming to be sung along to. My gripe is that The Ordinary Boys’ “intelligent” demeanor does not always work. For some reason I don’t see this preventing the upward surge of Camden’s favourite sons. Over The Counter Culture is very good, slightly flawed and probably worth checking out.

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The Ordinary Boys – Over The Counter Culture