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   Friday, November 28, 2003  
Blimey, Wheat!
Listening to Closer to mercury, track 9 on new album Per second, per second, per second..every second is to discover just how far this band has moved on/progressed/descended [delete as applicable]. It sounds in places like something from the Beach Boys - 1980s Beach Boys that is. Superficially, Go get the cops could have strayed in from Boy Band Land; this song also appears to quote straightfacedly from cheesy Bob Seger lurve song We've got tonight. And the terms 'Strings arranged by..' and 'Programming by..' crop up regularly in the sleeve notes.

So that would be 'blimey bad' as opposed to 'blimey good' then, right?

Coming all of four years after their second album Hope and Adams it's quite probable that this new record will be the first many will have heard of Wheat. Diehards lamenting the slightly off-centre and - warning: Reviewer-speke ahead - bruised indie-pop of the previous albums might argue that this is their best hope. The fact is Wheat have gone from off-centre to, Kappow!, bang centre. This is Big Pop.

Imagine Gregg Alexander (of New Radicals/You get what you give fame) hijacking U2 and you're some of the way there. This blog is also tempted, with tracks like the glam-stomping Can't wash it off and Closer to mercury's high pop, to reference someone like Owsley but for the fact he's even more unknown than Wheat. Generic chord changes loom large, Breathe and Life still applies, tracks 2 and 4, actually employing the the same one. So, how can all this be acceptable?, you cry. Why should we give them the benefit of the doubt?
Well, because this is Wheat. Because reallyrather knows where Scott, Ricky and Brendan have come from; so far they have no marks against. Because any obviousness here is generally upended by leftfield lyrics. And because 90% of these tunes are just stonking great pop.

Per second.. isn't a total departure. The jumping off point from it's predecessor Hope & Adams might be No-one ever told me; it wouldn't be rendered quite so slinkily but Off the pedestal could also sit easily on the new record. Producer Dave Fridmann is still on board and between them they produce a fizzling, squizzling mesh of synth sounds, big drums, strummy guitars and, it has to be said, the odd power chord. Like many acts that find favour hereabouts, Wheat have always given good tambo and many of the tracks come shimmeringly encrusted. And, of course, there Scott's fainting fall vocals.

Originally on a label called Sugar Free, Wheat now come sugar-frosted. As has been noted elsewhere, several of these songs are the very definition of why radio was invented. I met a girl and Some days, with their helium-filled 'hoo-hoo-hoos', don't take much getting, and in World united already they have the Fountains of Wayne's wet dream of a chorus, a stop-what-you're-doing/bounce-around-the-room beauty. Sure, there are occasional wince-inducing moments - the aforesaid Bob Seger incident, a 'Chet Baker' coda to the otherwise terrific This rough magic - and there's a lurking Dawson's Creekiness about some of it. But the fact is reallyrather has had this album for several weeks now and has played it just about every day. All of it. So there it is.

Elsewhere they say: 'Per Second leaves the listener a little unsteady. It’s filled with catchy choruses that are sardonic and bitter. The album has an acoustic indie feel but retains all the elements of a pop album, from slick production to radio-friendly anthems. In the end, this unsteadiness coupled with the ability to waver between the typical and unusual is what separates Wheat from the overabundance of pop bands and makes Per Second a noteworthy album'

But Scott's still on the defensive: "If I piss in a cup and recorded it now, people would say, ‘You used to do that better.’ "

'5 stars...Debut of the year,' says today's Independent of The Soul Sessions by blonde Brit teenager Joss Stone. OK, it's hard to get away from the sheer improbability of the whole thing but this is another record reallyrather has barely stopped spinning this past month...

Yo ho ho, etc...
An early Christmas present from Gingersol - Steve & Seth will join Minibar at the 12 Bar in London on Dec 18...
   posted by SMc at 2:11 AM |