Former 1990s Britpop darlings Shed Seven return with Instant Pleasures, their first new album in 16 years. The York-based band, led by the uber-cool frontman Rick Witter, were a dominant UK singles force in the late 1990’s, with a passionate fanbase affectionately known as, “Shed Heads”. This will be their fifth studio album and sees the welcome return of their original lead guitarist Paul Banks having re-joined the group on their greatest hits reunion tour of 2007.
The album is produced by Youth, who as well as playing bass in Killing Joke, needs little introduction in production duties having worked with U2, Marilyn Manson, Crowded House and Depeche Mode but to name a few. With Shed Seven’s original reign being in the pre-smart phone age, the albums content is described by Rick Witter as a nod to our current technical times stating, “Whatever you want these days you just click a button and you’re instantly pleasure”.
The albums starter, Room In My House begins confidently, cascading guitars with a tone similar to U2’s The Edge and scatterings of Stone Roses, Second Coming era, leading to an unmistakably familiar Shed’s sound. With this having been the first single released under the album, it’s a good old, “we’re back” statement of intent.
Nothing To Live Down brings to mind their 1996 Britpop defining second album, A Maximum High, with some wonderful guitar arpeggio sparkles on the chorus and a chugging guitar line.
The second single off this album, the acoustically charged, Its Not Easy is a bit of an earworm having had its melody intercepting my thoughts all this week. It’s got some funny lyrics in it including one reference for Breaking Bad fans and has a fine vocal from Witter.
Said I’m Sorry has some guitar styling similarities to The Strokes Tap Out, off their Comedown Machine album, that being said, it sounds pretty fresh and has some wonderful production treatment. It’s got a big, catchy chorus and again Paul Banks shines on the guitar.
Victoria is a chirpy upbeat love song, it fits well on the album, but is a bit of a filler for me.
Anthemic Better Days is a nice swirling build-up which will no doubt be a, “ iphone torch in the air” moment at their live shows. Powerful vocals, with a delicate mix of synth strings and guitars.
Synth based Enemies And Friends has a great electronic intro and puts them in a refreshing new territory. It’s a pulsing, upbeat number with shimmers of Johnny Marr-esque lead work from Paul Banks. Another stand out track.
Star Crossed Lovers, Hang On, Butterfly On A Wheel could very easily be 1990s Sheds, giving us little new ground if I’m honest.
People Will Talk is quite accessible as a next potential single and screams pop all over it with its perky summer vibe.
Final track, Invincible brings up memories of Oasis Champagne Supernova with its descending chord structure and tragic wailing lead guitar lines. Its melancholy mood is lifted by Witter’s solid melody and lyric stating, “your judge and jury and executioner all in one, but I still feel alive”, with his lyric pointing towards his own mortality and maturity.
It gave me a sense of real excitement to hear Shed Seven had sorted their issues out and stepped back in the ring. They were one of Britpop’s underdogs whilst Blur, Oasis and Pulp took the headlines. With this release, I believe the first half of this album is some of the best stuff they’ve done since A Maximum High, they have a real gift for writing catchy guitar pop tunes that you just can’t shake out of your head. The latter half of the album has a few fillers, but overall, compared with the tired sounding Truth Be Told, its positive stuff.
Whilst this release will please many of their older fans looking for reconnecting or nostalgia, it’s all here, the formula remains mostly unchanged, but compared with their younger Yorkshire contemporaries, like The Arctic Monkeys, they have some pretty stiff competition out there. But their back to where they belong, writing catchy guitar pop. It’s good to have them back, don’t leave it so long next time…..