Famous First Words
, August 1st, 2011 06:16
Slough has always had a bad rep. Usually this comes from the kind people who have never been there and are only too quick to recite lines about friendly bombs and the lack of bovine grazing opportunities from John Betjemen’s notorious poem. Granted, the majority of its population have little to say by way of praise either: this writer once met an embarrassed individual at a party who claimed to hail from the non-existent “North Eton”.
However, speaking as someone who was born and bred there and legged it at the first opportunity, it can be confirmed that this transient, industrial nightmare still had much to recommend it. The Slough of my youth was a multi-cultural mix made up of post-war migrants only too willing to roll up their sleeves in order to provide for their offspring. Growing up among kids from different cultures did much to open my eyes to a whole wide world. It may also come as a surprise to the casual observer that the town was once home to a vibrant music scene, and while nobody really broke through to a wider audience, there were enough local heroes and parties to ensure that some twisted form of civic pride was firmly in place.
So when the existence of Viva Brother – nee Brother – came to these ears, there was a genuine sense of excitement that the home of one of Europe’s largest industrial estates might finally be seen as something other than the location of Ricky Gervais’ planet-shagging sitcom. Yet even before the expose of their revisionist past, alarms bells began to ring. The unintentionally hilarious YouTube videos of four lads sloping around the Trading Estate, train station and other local landmarks telling whoever would listen of their plans of global domination smacked of contrivance. What little music was on offer simply elicited the response of “Yeah, and..?”
And so finally their debut album is here. Yet for all their bluster of writing anthems for a new generation and saving guitar music, the reality is little more than a damp squib. If one were being generous, their attempt at reviving the spirit of Cool Britannia could seem understandable, forgivable even. They are, after all, part of the generation that grew up in the slipstream of Oasis’ magpie antics. If Viva Brother were inspired by that stitched together Frankenstein’s Monster of music that ran riot with nary a thought for creativity or artistic expression, then their default setting of swagger, guitars and button-down shirts ought to make sense. Except it doesn’t: as we all know, their attempts at emo and whatever else was lying around smacks of previous attempts to become pop stars at all costs.
So what of the music? Anthemic? Powerful? Uplifting? Sadly not. It’s the kind of pumped-up jingle-jangle indie one would expect from a project that has producer Stephen Street’s name attached it. As evidenced by ‘Still Here’, the 60s are plundered without rhyme or reason in the shape of a grotesque steal from the Stones’ ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ while its opening couplet of “You take my money and you burn it to the ground / It’s no inferno but it follows me around” is simply laughable. Yet that is William Shakespeare when compared to ‘Darling Buds Of May’ which has “Her birthday’s in May / It is what it is / It is what it is” for your amusement and/ or incredulity. Similarly, despite ‘New Year’s Day’’s reaching for the pints aloft bonhomie of the stroke midnight it succeeds only in knocking over a half full can of stale ale.
And so it goes over and over and over again across the duration of Viva Brother’s pedestrian muzak. These aren’t famous first words or even rock & roll for that matter. This is manufactured rebellion for the X Factor generation and that’s just not good enough in times like these. Devoid of hunger, anger and sex, Viva Brother are about as anaemic and pale as music gets.
Slough has always had a bad rep and Famous First Words is going to do little to change that. Cheers, lads.