Two years on from their debut, Mercury-nominated album Hats Off To The Buskers, The View are back with their second offering, enigmatically entitled Which Bitch? But has the wait been worthwhile? Sadly not.
Indie darlings with commercial clout, the Dundee foursome arrived like a breath of fresh air in 2006/7 with a string of stomping tunes played with infectious enthusiasm. Songs like Wasted Little DJs, Superstar Tradesman and Same Jeans instantly became etched in the brain and stayed there, a nice blend of singalong melodies and garage edginess.
The delayed follow-up album reunites The View with producer Owen (Oasis/The Verve) Morris on trendy 1965 Records, but the same magic does not work twice. Maybe the band have spent too long on the road, or spent too much energy in enjoying the rock’n’roll lifestyle, and not enough time songwriting and grafting in the studio, but Which Bitch? is short on good material and sounds a bit of a mess.
Credit has to go to them for not just taking the easy route of replicating what they did on the first album, and for trying out new ideas, but the results unfortunately do not live up to the ambition. Which Bitch? is a more diverse, laid-back album, with orchestral arrangements on some tracks and wider tonal variety, while with 14 tracks and at almost an hour long The View can’t be accused of shortchanging their fans.
However, sometimes less is more, and the album would be better minus a few dispensable songs. There is definitely some good stuff on here but it is very patchy. There seems to be an attempt to re-create the fresh, spontaneous feel of The Libertines output but they always had the core of great songs to play around with in the first place, which tends to be lacking here. Judging by the snippets of banter and laughter at the start and end of some songs, the boys had a ball in the studio, but this ‘extended jam session’ ends up feeling incoherent and half-baked.
The opener, Typical Time 2, is a throwaway folk-blues ditty for harmonica and piano, followed by the first single 5Rebbeccas, an attempted anthemic number with accompanying terrace chants, which does not quite cut the mustard and failed to trouble the charts.
One Off Pretender, with frontman Kyle Falconer’s Mike Skinner-type rap-talking interrupted by the rousing ‘Shout it from the rooftop’ chorus, is much better though: an anti-establishment track with real rock’n’roll attitude. And the string-laden Unexpected, underscored by a moody bassline, is a song of sombre haunting beauty, as it describes the singer’s shock and guilt at the ‘unexpected’ suicide of a loved one, “But I always should have known/That you would lead a shortened life as your light was running low”.
Temptation Dice, about the need to take risks in your life – “You’ve got to change” – is a storming, hook-heavy tune, with sharp guitar work from Pete Reilly, while – as the title suggests – Glass Smash is a return to the aggressive punky energy of Buskers. The faux classical pastiche Distant Doubloon, with its strange references to Treasure Island, is simply a mistake, and Jimmy’s Crazy Conspiracy makes little impact either musically or lyrically.
Covers, featuring a lazy, jazzy trumpet and Paolo Nutini on smooth co-lead vocals, is pleasant but forgettable, and Double Yellow Lines chugs along innocuously as an amusing account of a post-drunken binge, with the singer using “Yellow lines by the side of the road take me home tonight”.
New single Shock Horror, with its dynamic call-and-response chorus, wakes us up with a much-need injection of adrenaline, followed by the very catchy accoustic-based Realisation, stressing the importance of living in the present – “why should we throw away a sunny day?” Unfortunately, though, the album ends weakly with the bland cautionary tale Give Back the Sun and the horizontally mellow, whistling-led Gem of a Bird.
Although it’s refreshing to see The View developing in new directions, Which Bitch? smacks of self-indulgence. There are some excellent tracks on the album but all in all this is a serious disappointment from a band of whom much more was expected.