Anyone who knows anything about the music scene in Britain in the 1990’s knows that Shed Seven were the masters of both the indie disco floor filler single and the live performance. Sure other bands may have sold more records thanks to their wibbling rivalries or posh totty bass players and it was left to some of those bands to set world records for crowds but the people who were there (ma-an) know that what I’m saying is true. Let’s look backwards before we rush forwards shall we?
“Dolphin” (28), “Speakeasy” (24), “Ocean Pie” (33), “Where Have You Been Tonight?” (23), “Getting Better” (14), “Going For Gold” (8), “Bully Boy” (22), “On Standby” (12), “Chasing Rainbows” (12), “She Left Me on Friday” (11), “The Heroes” (18), “Devil in Your Shoes” (37), “Disco Down” (13), “Cry For Help” (30) and “Why Can’t I Be You?” (23). Only their debut single “Mark/Casino Girl” didn’t hit the top 40. That’s quite the run of hit singles. Fifteen of them to be exact.
Only their album before this, 2001’s “Truth Be Told” failed to crack the top 40 album chart. Even then a placing of 42 at a time when all anyone cared about was New York bands who looked like they had watched one too many documentaries on CBGB’s was no mean feat. Success like this isn’t really all that common for a band like Shed Seven. They were never “scenesters”. They were a band who looked, sounded and behaved just like the people who loved them. No chocolate brown Rolls Royces here or a decade spent blowing cocaine up the backsides of supermodels. Nope, Shed Seven were the peoples band. Good times. Good tunes. Maximum highs.
Here we are then 16 years after their last album. An absence of that long could be a terrible thing. Despite regular live shows they could have returned ring rusty. Writing songs isn’t something you can just do when the mood strikes. It’s about inspiration as much as desire. People like me, long time fans, would have been happy with a clutch of new songs that acted as a reminder of happier, more youthful, moments in our lives. Having them back was good enough for me to support the project on PledgeMusic. I didn’t really care about whether the album itself was going to be any good.
“Instant Pleasures” isn’t just a return, it’s a return to the absolute best they ever had to offer…with a little bit of extra sprinkle and razzle dazzle added just to reward us for being so patient. It is, to be frank, the best thing they have ever done. A collection of songs where each one sounds like the only song you want to hear for the rest of your life.
All the best elements of Shed Seven are here; Rick Witters none more English vocal, a blast of Northern charm in a sea of transatlantic drawl in the charts, the drums of Alan Leach (easily a match for any of the best), Paul Banks reminding everyone why he should be placed in the same league as Johnny Marr when it comes to producing riffs that seem to sound like everything else you’ve ever heard and loved while still sounding like something you’ve never heard before and Joe and Tom providing all the support and creativity required to push a band from ordinary to extraordinary with bass lines that make your stomach flip and rhythm guitar that shimmer and shines.
The opening trio of songs “Room in my House”, “Nothing to Live Down” and “It’s Not Easy” were all released as teasers before the album landed. They were greeted with a level of enthusiasm and excitement that made the crowds on the first One Direction tour look like mourners. Independently they sounded like the best Shed Seven songs you’ve ever heard. Here though, one after the other, they sound like the best songs you’ve ever heard by anyone. I had to stop playing and spend a bit of time thinking about whether or not I’d heard what I thought I heard.
Just to make sure though I listened again.
Still as good.
“Said I’m Sorry” is their apology for burning the disco down back in 1999. It’s a song that sounds like Nile Rodgers has decided that the one thing he’s always really wanted to do is play lead guitar in the best band ever to come out of York. It’s proof that Shed Seven were never “just an indie band”, they are a band soaked in pop and rock history. Magpie eyes.
“Victoria” tips it’s hat to the Kinks song of the same name and shows off the strength of Rick Witter as a singer. His voice remains untouched by time. It’s strong, honest and full of warmth.
If you look up “anthem” in the dictionary you’ll get a clear and concise definition of the word…that is what a dictionary is for but if you wanted to hear the definition then “Better Days” is the only song you would need. I can already hear the sell out crowds on the upcoming tour roaring it back at the boys in the band.
“Enemies and Friends” has a glorious Clem Burke influenced drum beat that drives the song along at a rip roaring pace. “We walk along the road again” sings Rick and you feel good that you’re walking alongside him.
“Star Crossed Lovers” sounds like Shed Seven. It sounds like it could be from any Sheds album while at the same time sounding like something that could only be from the new Sheds album. It’s familiar and fresh.
Uh oh here comes my favourite track on the album; “Hang On” which has gospel harmonies, brass, uplifting lyrics and the sound of a band at the very peak of their powers. There isn’t a band in the world who wouldn’t give their back catalogue for this song. “Hold on to any hope you might have.” is just about the best advice anyone could give you. “Nothing should be beyond hope…life is hope.” said Oscar Wilde and I reckon if he heard this he’d approve.
The album closes with another three songs that are classic Shed Seven. Sing along. Clap your hands. Stamp your feet. “Butterfly on a Wheel”, “People Will Talk” and “Invincible”. Songs from a band who know that they are in the groove…confident, strong and carefree.
That’s it then.
Nothing left to say.
Except maybe one last thing…this is the best album of the year. Hands down. All bets are off. Nothing else comes close. “As You Were” by LG is great, “Different Days” by The Charlatans is their best ever, Noel has an album looming and Morrissey is back but I’m telling you that this is the best of a pretty impressive and promising bunch of records.
I’m beyond delighted that Shed Seven are back and I’m overjoyed that they are back with a record like this. Their best. The best. Hallelujah.