I recently examined our creeping obsession with 90s music, it’s little wonder that against the backdrop of the naughties cold mainstream, and fragmented underground music scene driven by the internet. Some still crave the comfort of a time when characters were easily recognisable (Noel, Jarvis, Damon, Brett, Justine, Thom et al), and a rush of English pop euphoria ever so briefly dominated the airwaves. Eventually destroying what we once knew as ‘indie music’ perhaps forever? Reducing any of the individuality that existed in those years down to its barest bones and spoon-feeding it into the charts through ‘wet’ sing-alongs (Starsailor, Embrace, Travis, Coldplay etc) and ham fisted moronic terrace anthems (Kaiser Chiefs, Fratellis etc). Thus we see a series of reformations and re-releases that often attempt to cash in on the decade. Simon Reynolds recent book asserts that we’re living through a period of ‘Retromania’ a generation of kids who were born in the 90s, who now appear to believe everything’s been done so why not blankly rip off the past….? The brazen, sometimes knuckleheaded, often derivative sound of Viva Brother appears to back these claims up, and some. This is one magical mystery tour that will make you puke.
Having recently optimistically changed their name from ‘Brother’ for a US market, VIVA Brother, have already acknowledged that they couldn’t ride out the storm of legal action that would threaten them in the states if they continued to wield the same name as an existing and very successful Australian act. Unlike say Nirvana (whose quality output allowed them stick out their dispute with a 70s version of Nirvana ) or those who took up a dreadful US monikers like The Charlatans UK that sounded hilariously like a subsidiary of corporate brands rather than a baggy guitar band…
Now the Slough “grit-pop” four piece Viva Brother now present their debut album ‘Famous First Words’ a queasy trawl through the works of popular and (best)forgotten 90s guitar bands alike. Produced by old hand Stephen Street who perhaps unsurprisingly is best known for polishing up the work with the Smiths and Blur.
Opener ‘New Year’s Day’ signals an intent all choppy guitars, “toe tapping” baselines: its a sick making waltzer ride. Threaded with ‘oooh oooh oohh’ backing vox, this wouldn’t sound out of place on Blur‘s ‘Leisure’ that’s if it wasn’t chronically hampered by lead vocalist Lee Newell’s vocals. They are the sound of a laden footed plagiarist, emoting earnestly at the top of his lungs but lacking the deftness of touch of a Damon or a Gaz. Thus you’re repeatedly bonked on the head a uneasy series of clunky lyricisms, in your face chorus’ delivered with an almost hardcore-esque sneer (little wonder given this outfits form in previously emo-pop incarnations). I have a headache already….
Track two, surely there’s some rest bite to be found here? Wrong. ‘Still here’ takes the Seahorses (yes John Squire’s short-lived follow up to the Stone Roses) only hit “Love is the Law” a ridiculous but enjoyable pomp stomp tale of stripper, and reworks it. I say reworks I mean rapes it: and that takes ham fists kids. “Stil Here’ is garnished with unnecessarily widdly licks and ill-fated lyrics, that might well adorn VIVA Brother’s musical tomb in future years (“I’ve got no friends I’ve got no future/at my funeral they’ll bury my head in the sand”) and a belligerently clichéd chorus that is so close to this that it hurts.
The pastiche parade continues apce with “David” that’s syrupy melodic line somehow recovers the ghouls of briefly hyped Britpop types Menswear .While ‘High Street Low Lives’ sounds like a poor man’s Shed Seven(yes!) having a pitiful stab at a Hard fi-esque opus about the down on ya luck working class lifestyle. The ridiculous chorus appears to be going for a world record for stringing together the most platitudes in just a few short couplets. (“Life’s too short/And I’m too high/And nobodies getting out alive” )Previous single ‘Darling Buds of May’ is the most dreadful slice of Green day-ish nonsense, its chipper nonsense verses replete with ‘ooooo oooo’s’ gleefully stomp all over your hedge rows, bursting irritatingly forth like Harry Endfield’s ‘Only Me’ character, in a lead footed chorus of inconsequentiality, its like a highly polished bside by the Enemy(another band I detest).
Perhaps the most amusing moment comes ‘Electric Daydream’ a glam pop strum that stirs the weirdest concoction of Oasis-ish eagerness inhabiting Bowie aping metaphors and staples them lazily onto a tedious internal dialogue about getting up and walking around(that must be hard!). While here Newell is a young man desperately trying to swagger Liam Gallagher’s earliest efforts, before briefly nudging into a falsetto that’s more Mansun than Manchester. I think it’s purely down to nostalgia, and amusement, that I despise this effort the least in the entire set, but am left confused and aghast by its mere existence.
Talking of Mansun, the closer ‘Time Machine’ attempts to inject a bit of Led Zep balls out rock into the song writing nouse of Paul Draper. Whilst Newell may have a tone that briefly flickers with Paul’s higher tone, he strips the under appreciated Chester lads songs of all inventiveness. The entire rotten thing crashing into heap on the floor like a lumpen blues rock ditty, the chorus is pure “I Love Rock and Roll,” naturally this would have been better left on the cutting room floor.
Brash, insistently chirpy and constantly annoying, Viva Brother‘s debut album is (hopefully) a quagmire of dreadfulness for the 90s revival. Even its influences are devoid of all meaning and dynamism; reduced to repetitive nonsense, it’s the equivalent of having your head bashed in for half an hour, by a skinhead who can’t let go of the past. If you REALLY like 90s music go and buy a few additions of Shine, or some of the best albums of the period. PLEASE DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME ON THIS. Oh, Brother (as I’ve decided to rename them) have just made me reach for the ibuprofen…