Graham Reid | | 2 min read
It's been almost 30 years since Shed Seven arrived in the mainframe of Britpop with their energetic debut album Change Giver.
Although it was their 1996 follow-up A Maximum High which was their most successful and accomplished outing, better capturing the zeitgeist and them as spiritual followers of both widescreen, uplifting Oasis and a powered-up Smiths.
As we've mentioned previously, we caught them in London around this time and they were thrilling, singer Rick Witter proved smart when I interviewed him and they delivered on the night to an enthusiastic audience which seemed to know every lyric.
But as we also noted, they meant nothing in New Zealand. And soon enough – after a commercially disappointing follow-up Let It Ride – they meant even less to their record company. It dropped them.
There were line-up changes (songwriter/co-founder Paul Banks quit), a new label which didn't release their already recorded album and by the early 2000s they were on a farewell tour.
Five years later there was a re-formation with the original line-up which was a huge success, an expanded Maximum High reissue and then in 2017 the Instant Pleasures album of which we said was “a reminder of just how good they were with tight Britpop full of almost lighter waving choruses, widescreen guitars and sometimes that emotional pessimism which the Brits can do so well (the gloomy Better Days)” and name-checked Oasis, English pop, stadium pleasers and a big ballad.
“Boxes ticked for sure, but in a confident hand,” we concluded.
This new one – helmed once more by Witter and Banks, with producer Youth back at the desk again after Instant Pleasures – doesn't shift the dial much from the formula that worked on A Maximum High and Instant Pleasures: it takes off at speed with the guitar wheel-spin of the punky Let's Go and nods to American jangle-rock on Kissing California.
There's are lot of recognisable Britpop tropes here which are self-referential, they lean into Anglofolk (the 27 second acoustic treatment of the first verse of Let's Go at the midpoint) and some of this wouldn't have sounded out of place on a period compilation which featured Oasis, Supergrass and the Smiths (at their most energetic). And which came in a cover featuring a Union Jack.
There's a stab at the earnestness of hard-won wisdom (Let's Go Dancing) but what's most interesting is the elements of American jangle-rock and West Coast harmonies which appear in many places.
There are certainly songs which are surplus to requirements: In Ecstasy is a real space-filler but probably works well on the dance floor.
Throwaways at the end goes for the big orchestral finish with Pete Doherty: “We were born on a rising tide only to realise we were only looking from outside . . . only to find out we're not part of the crowd, but we'll keep rising slowly . . . we won't change our ways even if that means we're thrown away.”
Once again we see the shock of the new beaten out by the comfort of the familiar: this album got Shed Seven their first number one album on the UK indie charts, 30 years after they emerged out of York.
As the album title and the lyric of Throwaways says, “just a matter of time”.
You can hear and buy this album at bandcamp here