Minor Matured Returns
Stereophonics’ latest endeavor, Graffiti on the Train, is the type of album you’d expect from a decades-old band that has stayed relatively consistent in keeping with a very distinct sound. Though their eighth LP is far more mellow fare, its key elements (namely, frontman Kelly Jones’ tobacco and booze-soaked vocals) are still intact. Sure, they’ve added a few bursts of strings here and there, but Graffiti on the Train would’ve stayed just as cinematic without them. Its eponymous track sounds almost apocalyptic in its rich production and a close listen to the lyrics reveals that the accompanying tale is one of tragedy indeed.
What follows from opener “We Share the Same Sun” and closing track “No-one’s Perfect”, both of which bookend the album with acoustic guitar, is radio-friendly rock designed with singles in mind. Stereophonics have been aching to get back on top since the Welsh band found success in the early 2000’s and this album stands to be just one more attempt to ascend from their plateau. The album’s first single “In a Moment” recalls bits of Alice in Chains and minimal industrial components. All in all, it’s a clean track that packs just enough punch for the casual listener. But that’s the kicker: no one is casually listening to Stereophonics anymore.
The band has an ardent following that would buy just about anything Stereophonics put out to alleviate the pain of waiting four years for a new album but for those newly interested in the band, you’d be better off finding a ’90s alt rock station or making a grunge playlist on Spotify. What they’re doing is, for the most part, quality work and there are a few engaging moments to keep you from completely skipping tracks, but the type of deja vu felt listening to Graffiti on the Train is enough to lull you to sleep. Maybe it’s time Stereophonics stop trying to capture a missed opportunity and focus more on playing to their talents and experimenting, rather than scrambling to make a slightly more mature record whose only new offering is bringing in David Arnold to provide string arrangements meant to distract from the stagnancy.