Album: Stereophonics

You Gotta Go There To Come Back, V2
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The Independent Culture

Stereophonics' follow-up to the hugely successful Just Enough Education to Perform was intended, they claim, as a response to the way that radio formatting has left everyone's records sounding the same - with no soul, no variety, and no individuality. Which is odd, because while You Gotta Go There to Come Back certainly has soul and variety, its sonic personality derives largely from The Black Crowes, who themselves borrowed it from The Rolling Stones, making this an album with third-generation "individuality". When Kelly Jones starts bawling about wanting to "Find my way/ Free my soul" in "High as the Ceiling", it's impossible not to think of Chris Robinson, just as the gospelly backing vocals to "Jealousy" recall Merry Clayton's work with the Stones. Not that such similarities work to the album's detriment: these are fine role models to adopt, and the trio's aspirations have resulted in their most accomplished work yet, one whose varied approaches range from the brass-band-tinted folksy musings of "Climbing the Wall" and the flute- and string-shaded reminiscences of "Rainbows and Pots of Gold" to the grunge-blues riffing of "You Stole My Heart" and "Help Me (She's out of Her Mind)". Lyrically, Jones has dropped the travelogue notes of Just Enough..., in favour of songs expressing lust, boredom, disaffection, melancholy, and exhilaration. The dominant tone, however, is one of weary resignation, exacerbated by both the repetition of hooks and by Jones's wheedling delivery, a cajoling whine whose limited appeal is regularly overrun.