The York five-piece unleash their first album since 2001’s Truth Be Told to much anticipation, but does it manage to meet those high expectations?
When reviewing the thunderous ‘Room In My House’, which was the first new material to be heard from the band, I said that the track had enough freshness, swagger and energy to set the bar extremely high for their forthcoming fifth album. That bar was indeed a challenge, but one that Shed Seven have passed, and then some.
Following on from the successful opening track, ‘Nothing To Live Down’ and ‘It’s Not Easy’ infuse the now-familiar horns that accompany the group on tour, which are wondrously laced with Rick Witter’s distinctive vocals, resulting in a brace of melodic beauties. On the latter he sings: “Change will do you good”, but one thing that Shed Seven have never really done is change whatsoever, which is what makes them what they are; a fantastic, but sadly somewhat ignored, indie-pop-rock band of the highest order. At times there are glimpses and flashes of different influences seeping out, but overall in trying to categorise the music you can only really say: ‘It’s simply Shed Seven.’
‘Said I’m Sorry’ is a lush upbeat number with a unique tempo change half-way through, before Paul Banks explodes on the scene with his creative guitar skills. Banks has amble opportunities to shine on this record and he never disappoints. ‘Victoria’ is perhaps the closest that the band have to come to releasing an aching full-on love song, and sees guitars fully at the fore. The pace then slows down with ‘Better Days’, a plaintive and majestic ballad with as much heart as anything they have ever created in their career.
A large sing-along chorus elevates ‘Enemies & Friends’ to a higher place (on higher ground?), which is bound to have crowds joining in passionately at live shows, while ‘Star Crossed Lovers’ thumps along relentlessly with a sense of freedom and joyousness. The longest track on the album arrives in the form of ‘Hang On To Yourself’, once again slowing things down, fooling the listener into thinking that it’s ended when in fact it bounces back with an upbeat, almost party-like strength that manages to place a huge grin across your face as you openly embrace it. ‘Butterfly On A Wheel’ is a solid and powerful song, but it unfortunately finds itself placed between two far superior tracks that cast their shadows over it, although it does do its best to stand tall and be counted.
‘People Will Talk’ almost seems like a mild fusion of the band’s hit single Disco Down and Lenny Kravtiz’s wonderful ‘It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over’. It’s an infectious, sleek song that is bursting with a euphoric energy that encapsulates everything that is honest and good about this new album. It’s a shame when songs this special come to an end, as you just simply want it to carry on delivering the goods, although you can just hit the repeat button. The album closes with the heartfelt ‘Invincible’, which ends on lyrics of “even if we crash and burn in the end”, but with a collection of songs here that invoke so many emotions, it’s hard to see the band ever coming to a crash and burn finale.
Instant Pleasures, which was produced by Youth from Killing Joke, is a remarkable album from start to finish. With regards to the title, frontman Rick Witter said: “Whatever you want these days you just click a button and you’re instantly pleasured. It’s certainly the way the world seems to turn at the minute. But it’s also a nice little nod because if you were to play our album you’d be instantly pleasured. There are twelve pretty damn cool songs on there.”
Anyone who has seen the band perform live will know that they are a lively bunch of lads and their energy bounces back and forth off a crowd, yet this record has the sound of a group completely re-energised to a whole other level. They’ve managed to capture the magical Shed Seven lightning in a bottle and commit it to these twelve new tracks, and with the band about to embark on their biggest tour of their career, it’s only fitting that such a behemoth of a record be ready to be heard by the ever-increasing fan base.
As the age-old adage says, good things come to those who wait. Sixteen years has been the length of time for new Shed Seven material, but that wait has certainly paid off.