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Top Twenty Albums: Twelve. Stereophonics; Sex, Language, Violence, Other? (2005)

Kelly Jones’ Stereophonics are a great band and this album, their heaviest and challenging yet is the best rock album by a British band of the new century.

The opening track, Superman is a real statement of intent, throwing the gauntlet down to the listener;

You wear a mask wear an armoured suit
Can’t get to you with the gun I shoot?
You play your cards close to your chest because your
Poker face is a dreary mess

You got that woman but you want her gone
So you can fuck a teenage blonde

Is about as far from the whimsical “Local Boy In the Photograph” as you can get.

Deep down and dirty rock and roll at it’s simmering best, there is a real darkness to this record as if Kelly is confronting his own demons.

Quite a departure from a band labelled by NME as “rock for Radio 2 listeners”, after the release of the somewhat turgid and MOR long player “Just Enough Education To Perform” with it’s limp hit single “Have a Nice Day” and the appalling cover of Rod Stewarts “Hand Bags And Glad Rags”.

Anodyne is the perfect description of where the band were at in 2003.

And yet Stereophonics had promised much with their debut “Word Gets Around” and it’s immense selling son “Performance and Cocktails”, which show cased a guitar band blessed with subtlety and whimsy, a delicate balance which drew of the British legacy of the Kinks and married it with a harder, heavier edged US sound from the Bob Jovi tradition.

Quite a combination which saw the band achieve outstanding commercial success.

The breakneck pace of this record continues with the testosterone fuelled “Doorman” ;

Doorman you got an attitude
You’re like immigration in a cheaper suit
You’d like nothing more than to break my face
No rhyme no reason no colour or race


is more metronomic in musical style but the next track “Devil” is a real trip into the shadows of Kelly’s mind.

A lighter sound for the verse but this is shattered with a searing chorus in which the front man’s gravel voice is given full throttle;

So be my devil angel
Be my shooting star

So to the album’s hook track, the supreme “Dakota” which provided the Welsh trios first Number One Single after 19 previous attempts.

It is such an uplifting song, reminders (for me) of late teenage University years and the freedoms and privileges that were borne of that time;

Thinking back, thinking of you
Summertime, think it was June
Yeah think it was June
Laying back, head on the grass
Chewing gum, having some laughs
Yeah having some laughs

Fantastic, and this line;

You made me feel like the one
The one

We can all remember that all encompassing aurora, a rite of passage, love seeming to be the only thing in the World at that time.

There can be few better feelings, wrapped in each others emotions knowing it’s real and for keeps.


with it’s choppy guitar sound is Blur with attitude with “Lolita” being a nod to the bands more observational Brit Pop mid nineties contribution.

The album’s final tracks, “Deadhead” and “Feel” synthesize all the diverse elements in this record in but subtle mirror image of the brutality which introduces this epic effort.

A true masterpiece which encapsulates what makes British music the best in the world.


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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