Tall Stories from Under the Table
et me present a quick and rough story of British indie of the last decade. 1997: Oasis kill off Britpop. 1998-2002: Gomez, Stereophonics, Coldplay. 2001: NME wakes up and shakes up with the exotic Strokes. 2002-2005: Talking Heads, Gang of Four, the Jam, and in the background, the Libertines. 2006: The Arctic Monkeys. And 2007 is now—but do we really want to be here now?
Dogs present a quick and rough story of recent British indie too, because this is where we are—permanently 25 to 30 years in thrall. Tall Stories from Under the Table sounds immediately like two dozen albums I’ve heard before and a hundred other albums that are being photocopied right now: fast C’s and G’s on guitar, wiry solo lines, anthemic choruses, and lyrics about everyday life for normal working class folk. Can we shoot the video on a council estate, yeah?
Following their 2005 debut Turn Against This Land (refer to paragraph 1 for a brief review), Tall Stories from Under the Table’s guitars ditch the post-punk angles in favor of new-wave pop and bigger choruses. Following Maximo Park’s 2005 debut A Certain Trigger (refer to paragraph 1, etc.), Our Earthly Pleasures’ guitars ditched the post-punk angles in favor of new-wave pop and bigger choruses. Aren’t we going over exactly the same ground here? Sure, we can’t nail all of Dogs’ colors to Maximo Park’s mast—that would be unfair to the other contributors. In particular, the Jam need credit and, by extension, their own mod con the Ordinary Boys, and let’s not forget the Clash and the Futureheads, the Libertines, and even the Stone Roses and Stereophonics either.
Here’s Joe Strummer singing “the coldest place in the betting shop is by the litter bin, you lost the lot” in “Dirty Little Shop”—he reappears throughout in Jonny Cooke’s vocal tics. “Soldier On” begins with Kelly Jones and then introduces a wiry Libertines go-nowhere solo, and then Paul Weller appears in anthemic ballad “Let it Lay”—it is actually a guest-spot from Paul Weller, no joke this time. No wonder he likes them—the Jam are shot through the entire record.
So what? “Everything is derivative” is the new black, isn’t it? Well, yeah, s’pose so, but “talent borrows, genius steals” is the new new black, and these guys are caught red-handed trying to steal without the intelligence to do so. Tall Stories isn’t a hateful album, Dogs are not worth getting riled about. Rather, in any future quick and rough guide to recent British indie, Tall Stories will be no more than a footnote, an example of a trend or discourse, rather than its progenitor, and that’s not even beginning to address whether the trend is a welcome one.
Reviewed by: Ally Brown
Reviewed on: 2007-07-10