BANDS returning from a long break must always face the temptation to mix things up and experiment with a new sound.
Shed 7, back on record for the first time in 16 years, have played it straight for the most part — and I reckon that’s the right decision.
When you’ve made your name with stomping, singalong indie-rock, dabbling in drum ‘n’ bass or free jazz is a risk probably not worth taking.
Where the now five-strong York outfit have spread their wings, it is with backing vocals, brass and strings adding varied support to rhythm section Tom Gladwin and Alan Leach.
The Shed 7 sound — rumbling bass, jangling, swaggering, rolling guitars, occasional hints of funk and singer Rick Witter’s distinctive vocal, as comfortable when soft as strident — is still there, albeit with added echoes of The Stone Roses, The Smiths and, dare I say it, The Feeling in their better moments.
The “Sheds” have not exactly been hiding from their fans, with regular Shed-cember tours having packed out academies in the run-up to Christmas for some years, but they are finally back in album form — and it’s been worth the wait.
The 12-track Instant Pleasures is led off by comeback single Room In My House, an anthemic invitation to fans old and new to get on board with the party (with a video recorded at our own Wentworth Woodhouse).
It sets the tone for the album, harking back to the band’s mid-1990s heyday, and should have you singing along to its oh-woah refrain long before the end.
Witter’s posturing, full-on stage persona practically leaps from the speaker but his trademark in-your-face delivery belies a wider vocal range which emerges on the more balladic tracks.
But Witter’s attitude and ability would be nothing without the tunes to back it up, and guitarists Paul Banks’ and Joe Johnson’s driving, heavy indie guitar style provides plenty of hooks.
The guitars shimmer and even sing at times, demanding as much attention at times as Witter’s vocal.
The album is at its peak during a storming three-track burst made up of Better Days, Enemies & Friends and Star-Crossed Lovers, none of which would feel out of place on a best-of collection, while Invincible is a sparkling way to bring the curtain down.
Enemies & Friends is such a cracker it had hardly finished before I skipped back and played it again — only this time, much louder.
Not everything works — neither Victoria not Butterfly on a Wheel really fly as they should, the former in particular being dragged down by forced lyrics.
It remains to be seen if Instant Pleasures will win over many new fans, the Britpop ship having long sailed for many music lovers.
But it is right up there with the band’s best work and will give diehards a clutch of new favourites to belt out during the Sheds’ winter tour.
Witter insists during People Will Talk, a swinging little number, that “People will talk/It doesn’t matter much to me”.
He should probably listen — I expect he will like what he hears.
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