Robust + energised
Harrison Smith
12:06 1st March 2022

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As preparations commenced for the band's 25th anniversary celebratory Greatest Hits album, Stereophonics' frontman and chief songwriter Kelly Jones found himself, instead of looking back, uncovering a trove of tracks which had for one reason or another fallen by the wayside. Inspired to piece together and make better the ideas that had not previously made the cut, Jones began writing the Welsh-rocker's most lively album in over a decade Oochya!

Motivated to introduce Stereophonics to newer generations, Jones felt more work was to be done and that a best-of compilation could wait. "We've always been about trying to find new audiences with new music, and it started to feel like a compilation was too easy.' 

Oochya! is the result of these new goals. Lead single (and standout track) 'Hanging On Your Hinges' sets the tone for the record; a neat riff, pounding drums, and Jones' signature rasp—it all feels very much like their earlier work, which can only be a good thing if the goal is to resonate with new crowds. Lyrically, it's no-frills simplicity but suitably punchy. Jones dispenses with the double entendres and relies more on straight-to-the-point descriptions of escapism on the lamenting 'Forever': "I'd like to know/where I'm supposed to go/wish I could fly away forever". It's all fairly on-the-nose, but doesn't stray far from the expectations many have of the group. 

Stereophonics have tended to serve up middle-of-the-road ballads in recent times and found themselves in the realms of predictability. Oochya!, whilst dishing up much of the same, is a much more robust and energised project than the previous few albums. Driven by up-tempo rock'n'roll, Oochya! finds the band capturing a seventies groove on the enormously fun, AC/DC-pastiche 'Running Round My Brain'. The sentimental 'Close Enough To Drive Home', whilst cliché, is sweet, and its relatable message of battling long-distance love is executed satisfyingly. The layered 'When You See It' brims with melodic optimism and a positive message of self-belief, something which many of the other tracks would benefit with embracing. Jones' tendency to focus on love, whilst mainly working, for the sake of variety, leaves you wanting him to try his hand elsewhere. 

Expectedly, with an album fixating mostly on the business of troublesome relationships, thematically it does grow tiresome. The pattern of heartbreak and longing that runs throughout runs out of steam around the halfway point. Its fifteen-track length seems somewhat misguided, but the real moments of fun are enough to please casual fans and dedicated followers alike. 

Oochya! is a peculiar beast in that respect: it's pleasant and will fit nicely into a long term devotee's collection, yet refuses to take many risks. Stereophonics, now a quarter of a century into their impressive career, are ticking boxes on Oochya! with occasional and well-needed sprinkles of inspired zest. 

Oochya! arrives 4 March via Stylus/Ignition.

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.

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Photo: Press