Album Review: The Ordinary Boys – The Ordinary Boys

The Ordinary Boys

the ordinary boys albumReleased 2nd October 2015

Words: Gary Feeney

The Ordinary Boys, it’d be fair to say, have had something of a chequered past. Rising to fame back in 2004 with their excellent debut Over the Counter Culture, the band followed it up in style with Brassbound – two albums bustling with confident, swaggering songs built around witty and observant lyrics. From there, though, it started to go downhill, beginning with singer, song-writer and guitarists Sam Preston’s ill-advised appearance on Celebrity Big Brother and subsequent marriage which briefly attracted tabloid interest (not to forget his infamous appearance on Never Mind The Buzzcocks) and the release of the somewhat cumbersome and overwrought third album How to Get Everything You Ever Wanted in Ten Easy Steps before the band eventually split to little fanfare in 2008.

In the years that followed, Preston went on to forge a career in song-writing, penning tracks such as Olly Murs’ number one single Heart Skips A Beat…but we won’t hold that against him. After a few tentative live gigs and tours, Preston reconvened the band on a permanent basis with a new line-up late in 2013 and following their first full tour late last, The Ordinary Boys are now back with their eponymous fourth album.

It’d have been easy enough for Preston & co to have went for a rehash of the punky rush first two albums but from the first track, About Tonight, it’s obvious that there’s an different dynamic at play, not least due to the fact that the first voice you hear is that of new guitarist Louis Jones (something which proves to a regular and welcome feature on the album) which is soon joined by the front-man, instantly highlighting the more subtle, harmonious vocal approach which characterises the album.

On first listen, The Ordinary Boys seems to be a relatively melodic, reflective affair calling to mind the harmonies and chiming guitar lines of acts like the Byrds and in my head, I was starting to compose this review along the lines of a new line-up finding its feet with a more introspective sound than before and exploring a new direction within themselves – and certainly an element of this still rings true – but like all good albums, it takes several plays before it starts to give up all of its secrets. Indeed, after several listens I sometimes don’t really recognise the album I thought I heard first time around.

A track like Awkward, for example, on first impressions seems typical of the sound I’ve just mentioned but next time around, you start to hear the different layers to it: the sharp, jagged rhythm guitars courtesy of Preston that typified the band’s early work become noticeable for example, perfectly complimented by Jones’ lead parts and it’s this mix of the band’s earlier sound meeting the new one that make the album an increasingly engaging affair.

Speaking of first impressions, if I were to say that there’s not really one song on the album that really sticks out, one sing that makes you go “wow, that’s a single,” it would probably seem like a criticism of sorts…but that’s definitely not the case. What The Ordinary Boys is is a proper album; a group of songs that belong together and fit as a single piece of music rather than a collection of songs recorded at the same time and it’s all the richer for this. That said though, my personal favourites would be I’m Leaving You (And I’m Taking You With Me) and, Disposable Anthems: the former is maybe the most quintessentially Ordinary Boys song on offer, whilst the latter is the best showcase of the new sound of the band. Carried along on a Byrds-esque chorus-laden guitar-line and a sweet, lilting vocal melody, it’s the perfect closer to a fine album.

As a long-standing fan of The Ordinary Boys, one of the things I’ve always really liked about them is Preston’s lyrics, so it’d be remiss of me not to make specific mention of them as the lyrics here typify the shift in sound musically. There’s more of a reflective theme over the course with less of the social commentary of tracks like Over The Counter Culture, but the singer’s lyrical edge hasn’t been blunted by this – there’s a heart-on-sleeve honesty on songs like Four Letter Word (“When I say I’ll always love you, it’s not a promise it’s a threat”), showcasing the depth and intelligence of Preston’s writing.

The Ordinary Boys never were a “flavour of the month act” even at their commercial peak and Preston’s aforementioned foray into the celebrity lifestyle gave the popular music press further ammunition to have a pop at them, but nonetheless they made two albums which have more than stood the test of time and released some great singles. The latest offering is, therefore, unlikely to garner much in the way of favourable reviews from magazines which these days have actors from teenage vampire films on their front cover, but for the discerning music fan this is a highly enjoyable album full of confident songs with remarkable musical depth. If you were a fan of The Ordinary Boys before, you’ll love this album. If you weren’t? This may just change your mind.

Listen to Four Letter Word here:


One Response to “Album Review: The Ordinary Boys – The Ordinary Boys”
  1. garyfeeney says:

    Reblogged this on General Smuts.


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