Stereophonics - Life Cafe - 24.1.05

Widely ridiculed for being the most boring band this side of Travis County and Keane Ville, the Stereophonics have gone back to basics in both senses of the word. Stripped back to a 3 piece, ex drummer Stuart Cable has been permanently replaced by Argentian Javier Weyler, they're doing a brief tour around the country in the sort of venues they haven't played since the "Word Gets Around" tours.

After seven attempts to start the first song you're left with the feeling that maybe it was Kelly Jones rather than Stuart Cable as the Phonics weakest link. The false starts beg question as to whether the Phonics can get back that rock n roll spirit. Lacking the additional guitarist and keyboard player Kelly's vocals and rhythm guitar is a little lacklustre. In comparison the rhythm section are tighter than ever.

It takes an old favourite in the form of "Madame Helga" to life the show out of the mire. Jones finds a new found confidence and the raspy vocals seem stronger than ever. From that point on the band are on fire with new tracks sitting alongside old favourites. Notable in their absence are any tracks from Just Enough Education To Perform.

Of the new songs it's "Brother" (a groove based track that could be a lost Madchester classic), Pedal Pusher (Led Zep stoned out of their heads) and new single Dakota (the best Phonics single to date - sounds like early U2 covered by the Strokes or The Killers). While old favourites "Local Boy In The Photograph", "Bartender & The Thief" and "Too Many Sandwiches" are indicative of the spirit the band with to recreate.

After years in the Wilderness the Stereophonics have done exactly what they needed to do to make themselves relevant again. At a time when the right thing in the record companies eye would be to release another Radio 2 friendly ballad, the band have taken a risk and it's paid off. Who can argue with those riffs?

Alex McCann

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