Woven into the fabric of popular music, Welsh rockers Stereophonics proved long ago that they have what it takes to come up with the song material again and again. Despite some ups and downs the band remain one of the most critically and commercially successful bands.
‘Kind’ signifies some of the band’s finest work released to date. Led by Kelly Jones’ raw vocal vulnerability the songs have an honesty that shines through every track. It comes with a direct approach from someone who really knows and really feels. Making use of a stripped back production style, combined with the organic approach of recording live to tape, the 10 tracks instantly capture and mesmerise. It is back to basics, but it works a fine treat.
The band’s longevity is at least partly attributable to Jones’ songwriting, and the eleventh album sees the frontman take the ability to sketch and document reality and beauty further. While everyday observations are tackled, he also delves into his own existence and experience to create songs that come from a place of genuine wisdom. There are plenty of lessons learnt and an in-depth understanding of life’s own truths, and everything that comes with it.
A classic record ticking not one but several dimensions in sonics and lyrics, it has an even but diverse sound. From the rocky opener ‘I Just Wanted the Goods’ to the last track - the folky ‘Restless Mind’ - several styles are fed through the Stereophonics sound control filter. The beautifully uplifting gospel hymn ‘Make Friends With the Morning’ is a highlight contender amongst several, whereas ‘Stitches’ feels more reflective and thoughtful, while having more drive and resilience. It is about getting ready to move on but doing what is right in the situation.
Love is an overall theme on this record. But it is not limited to love between two people - it extends to love between friends and a love for life. ‘Hungover For You’ is about the sadness associated with a love that is no more and about coming to terms with what happens next. The compelling Tom Petty-like ‘Bust This Town’ tackles the idea of living in the moment. Two friends, or lovers, who choose to go with what is right whilst they maintain enough inner strength to never look back. Breaking all the rules in the process, they leave the small town in which they’ve been stuck too long.
The blues guitar-led ‘Don’t Let the Devil Take Another Day’ is about the complexity between the need for escapism and the ability to live in the here and now, to make the most of things. “You set me free on my great escape. I dream of all the places we could hide away”, fantasises a dreamy Kelly Jones. The chilled and peaceful Bob Dylan-influenced ‘Restless Mind’ represents the perfect end to an irresistible journey.
‘Kind’ is a heartfelt, fully realised collection of songs, embedded with optimism providing a much needed hope for our challenging times.
Words: Susan Hansen
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