In the rush to proclaim umpteen guitar-fuelled rock outfits as saviours of rock'n'roll, The Webb Brothers may well be bumped off the radar. It's a situation that's to be bemoaned. Sure, no one would describe the three sons of Jimmy Webb as desperately original; like, say, Ed Harcourt, their quest is for the perfect pop song, honed via Beach Boys-ish harmonies, Beatles-ish psychedelia, much stoner rock and a hint of their dad's bittersweet Sixties pop besides. But they take to it with winningly grinning gusto, wit and flourish, and crack choruses that most other pop bands would wilt before.
Sadly, though, none of these qualities have served them too well in terms of success yet. Despite the media attention - to the tune of "Oh, look, it's Jimmy Webb's lads" - that greeted their debut album, 1999's Beyond the Biosphere, its 2000 follow-up, Maroon, seemed too bitter a pill for some to swallow. Not unlike Pulp's similarly neglected This is Hardcore, it charted the messy aftermath of the party-hard lifestyle in vivid detail, from hungover to dumped to overdose in 13 songs.
And yet, in true stoner-dude style, they played its tales of loss and chemical torpor as languidly great pop, knocked down but coming up grinning. Likewise, any setbacks in their ascent - they recently struggled with record-label trouble Stateside - haven't dented their live ardour. They arrive on the tiny stage of the Barfly, in Camden, in a flurry of mop tops, black suits and toothy grins, and a cry of: "We're really happy to be back in London!" to suggest that, in their heads at least, they're playing somewhere 10 times the size.
As they ought to be. The sardonically brilliant songs from Maroon play like lost classics: "I Can't Believe You're Gone", in particular, rolls in and gets about its clattering, love-lorn business like the acid-spiked No1 it should have been. As for the material from their forthcoming, eponymously titled third album, "Ms Moriarty" makes great power pop sound effortless, grafting a sleepy-eyed vocal on to busily fizzing keyboards with some style. No less strong is the creamily crooning summer pop of "Who Wants to Get High", whose title alone implies that The Webb Brothers aren't about to be diverted from their calling in a hurry.
They aren't the type of band who change, after all, so much as stick at what they do best and hone their skills. They're maturing nicely, too, although whether many people will notice is a moot point.
This autumn, The Webb Brothers will be playing their crisply crafted pop to air-punching indie-kids when they support those hair-metal throwbacks The Darkness. It's an upside-down bill. But if the brothers don't go down a storm, they're sure to bounce back from the experience, harmonies, hairdos and hooks intact.Reuse content