After years of diligent dues-paying in front of a small circle of friends down their local pub, the Harrow trio Scouting for Girls suddenly hit the big time, becoming the biggest-selling new British band of 2008.
The vertiginous rise seemed to frighten the group: the tracks they had already begun recording for the follow-up album were summarily scrapped, as the pianist/singer/lyricist Roy Stride decided that they needed to come up with something better. Two years further on, the 10 tracks that make up Everybody Wants to Be on TV are the result, its release happily coinciding with their first chart-topping single "This Ain't a Love Song" – a success that arguably validates their refusal to rush into things.
In its ambivalent attitude towards relationships, the single is typical of the way Scouting for Girls live up to their name. "I'm a little bit lost without you/ And I'm a bloody big mess inside", acknowledges Stride over trenchant piano chording and strings. Elsewhere, the subjects of "Goodtime Girl", "Little Miss Naughty" and "Posh Girls" are all found wanting in some respect: the first is the girl he wants to forget, the second the flirtatious "little mistake" precipitating the end of a longer relationship, while the third are dealt a particularly harsh hand in the singalong refrain of "Posh girls have good manners, but they go like the clappers 'cos they never got to hang around with boys at school", a tendentious claim alleviated only by the artful rhyming of "apprehensive" with "comprehensive".
That kind of wordplay points towards the group's stylistic precursors in the mannered English pop of such as Squeeze, who given the opportunity (and the technology) might also have slipped from an autotuned vocal intro to a lolloping trumpet boogie, as SFG do on "Little Miss Naughty". There are several touches reminiscent of Buggles, too, particularly the medium-is-the-message concerns of "On the Radio", with its recognition of somebody being "in every song from the past, a ghost of the radio mast".
I get the impression that Stride would like to document his era with the same kind of droll commentaries employed by the likes of Squeeze and Buggles, and he certainly comes close in the cautionary tale of casual sex and pregnancy "1 + 1 = 3" and the paean to pointless celebrity, "Famous". "I want to be known for just being famous – I can't act, I can't dance, I can't sing, but I'm young and I'm pretty", he satirically notes in the latter. But it doesn't quite go far enough, merely reporting without trying to fathom the underlying insecurity and need for anonymous affirmation without which many modern lives seem so empty.
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