(Infectious Music, out now)
Was there a clamour for a new Shed Seven album? Inexplicably, it seems so. Second division at best, even at their peak, they’ve now existed long enough to be misremembered as past masters. They were even on prime time radio with Chris Evans the other week. Wheel out an Ugly Bloke, it’s like TFI Friday all over again.
Instant Pleasures (even the title reeks of stale Britpop) certainly has a transportative effect. Suddenly, you’re in O’Neills in Leicester in 1998, Beckham’s just got sent off against Argentina and ruined the World Cup, so you’re getting another round of Stellas in for the lads. “I fuckin’ love this one,” you shout as a familiar riff hits the jukebox. Is it Embrace? Is it Ocean Colour Scene? No, it’s them other ones… oh, what are they called, again? “Shed Seven, mate. ‘Cos he lost his virginity in a shed when he was seven. Fnarr, fnarr!”
There’s little update to that hoary old template on this, their first album in sixteen years. They’ve added some brass in places (a Yorkshire flourish perhaps?) There’s also an occasional nod to the earnest air-punching Britrock of The Alarm and Big Country. Otherwise, it’s turn of the century sub-Oasis swagger that makes Travis sound like the future of music again. Even the song titles are uninspiring – Nothing To Live Down, Said I’m Sorry, Better Days, Hang On.
It’s Not Easy’s refrain of “No spunk in your trunk / And no fun in your funk” is no Wordsworth, but might accurately sum up midlife in a middling Britpop band. It’s also positively profound next to some of what’s on offer. “I won’t lie / I wasn’t thinking of you / ‘Cos I’m over you now / Take a look how it feels,” sings Witter on Butterfly on a Wheel. On People Will Talk he fearlessly defends the object of his affections from the gossip of others: “People will talk / it doesn’t matter much to me / people will talk / you really mean the world to me”. Call Hallmark, we’ve got a new writer!
Perhaps in the tumult of 2017, a portion of the country pine for the safety of those heady early days of Blair’s Britain, and Shed Seven are the kid brothers you can remember it with. While contemporaries Dodgy, whose new material shows a willingness to keep moving forward, are playing lowly Bannerman’s, the Sheds are selling out Glasgow’s massive Academy. Go figure.
It’s not that it’s especially bad, it’s just unnecessary. What purpose it serves that couldn’t be addressed with a quick spin of Going For Gold: The Greatest Hits isn’t clear. Dolphin was an indie disco banger back in the day. Just stick that on and do your best monkey dance. Nothing here will do the job as well.
Still, if this album and concomitant tour pays the mortgages, and gives a certain demographic the heady rush of their younger days, there’s no real harm in it. Perhaps blokey guitars are the Instant Pleasures that some music fans still crave.