Quick Takes: Stereophonics – “Graffiti on the Train”

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To be honest, I had written the Stereophonics off several years ago. They’d fallen into a rut and everything they released sounded the same.

It turns out singer-guitarist Kelly Jones thought the band had fallen into a rut as well. Following the release of the band’s previous record, 2009’s Keep Calm And Carry On, they quit Universal Records and took a break from nearly 15 straight years of touring.

For two years Jones worked on screenplays instead of music. The second of those screenplays, called Graffiti on a Train, inspired the new record. The album loosely tells the story of “a guy … writing messages on a train for his girl who catches the same train every morning and one day he proposes to her. But that’s the day that he slips off the train.”

It was this story that allowed Jones to write music for the first time that was about different characters and not about himself.

And it worked. This is the best album Jones, bassist Richard Jones, guitarist Adam Zindani and drummer Jamie Morrison have put out in more than a decade. And I believe the reason it is is because of the variety of styles used to tell Jones’ story. From the hard-driving opener, “We Share the Same Sun,” to the second track, ballad with a title that shares a name with the album, to third track “Indian Summer,” that could easily be mistaken for a Wallflowers’ tune. “Been Caught Cheating,” is a tripped-back bar blues tune, complete with drunken background yelling, while “Violins and Tambourines” features both, before a driving rock beat kicks in and carries the song through to the crashing end. What I’m trying to say is that the songs don’t sound like one-another, and there’s no misses on this album.

Graffiti on the Train was released earlier in the U.K. and will be released in the U.S. on Aug. 20, on the band’s own label, Stylus Records. You should begin hearing the first single, “Indian Summer,” Monday.

Stereophonics play the Fillmore Oct. 8.

Listen: “We Share the Same Sun,” “Indian Summer,” Violins and Tambourines.”

Grade: A

Graffiti on the Train

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