It’s been nearly 10 years since they’ve hit us with an album
of original material (although there’s clearly something to be said for The Dangerman Sessions Vol. 1, which
found them paying tribute to a handful of their favorite ska and reggae songs
as well as “Lola”). So forgive them if
they’re overflowing with ideas on this horn-fueled concept album – “an audio
guide to the greatest city on earth,” as they call it.
There’s even an overture, the aptly titled “Overture.” And
if most songs are closer in spirit to “Our House” than “One Step Beyond,” well,
there’s no shame in that. At this point, they’re probably better at writing
post-Ray Davies thinking-person’s Brit-pop, best exemplified by the bittersweet
“Sugar and Spice.” It begins with a wistful verse about the type of love one
tends to fall in at the tender age of 16, then follows the clearly smitten
couple through the hopeful early days of marriage (“a second-hand fridge and a
washing machine”) to a Motown-flavored chorus whose upbeat rhythms can’t
conceal the sadness of “Sugar and Spice,” everything was so nice. Now it’s just
not the same.”
Other highlights range from “Idiot Child,” a barbed character
sketch whose singalong chorus could pass for a musical cousin of “Come on
Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, to the album-closing title track, a
shape-shifting epic that seems intent on cramming every bit of social
commentary one might care to make on England into a 10-minute pop song.
Standout Tracks: “Sugar and Spice,” “Idiot Child” A. WATT.