Stereophonics  - Just Enough Education To Perform

If Kelly Jones' recent attack on music journalists was a case of nerves then he needn't have worried. J.E.E.P is without a shadow of a doubt the 'Phonics most accomplished record to date. Perhaps Jones fear of journos is their ability to transform the mundane into a dazzling rock & roll dream while he can never transcend the day to day drudgery of life. While this new found maturity is charming in verse & chorus it doesn't cross over well into Kellys ever-so-exciting sleeve notes. If anything, like fellow Welsh boys the Manic's, this album is more a shift in production style than an actual shift in the songwriting. Still, it's these small subtle changes that make all the difference and if there is one thing you can credit the guys for, its being true to themselves. For all the criticisms of the band there is no doubting that you can spot a Stereophonics song within miles, their very nothingness is what makes them special.

"Vegas Two Times" is the sort of rock out we've come to expect from the guys. With a sleazy guitar riff reminiscent of ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler you feel as if you've got the wrong CD in the player. After this amazing intro it is kind of disappointing that they've lost the will to well and truly rock out. If anything the acoustic shows are more telling of the direction they seem to be heading in. Its almost with a sense of relief that midway through "Have A Nice Day" jogs along pleasantly with its infectious hook.

If anything the constant demands of touring and promotional visits have helped rather than hindered the lyrical mind of Kelly Jones. To his credit his connection with the people lies in the fact that his lyrical ideas aren't that far removed from his original vision of small town life and small time problems. Its just that Cardiff Bay has been replaced with San Francisco Bay. The stage has changed, but the people remain the same.

You get the sense that J.E.E.P is the album Kelly has been waiting to make all his life. Certainly the likes of "Caravan Holiday", "Nice To Be Out" and "Mr Writer" are amongst the best of Stereophonics catalogue. The big question is What Next? With 3 albums behind them it would be commercial and critical suicide to continue down this same path for much longer. Maybe the future lies in a collaborative effort alongside the lines of the Manchild single or maybe Kelly will write a novel. One thing's for sure. It will take a lot to better J.E.E.P

Alex McCann