In the annals of nineties Brit-rock, Stereophonics never had the outsized nature of the likes of Oasis, but rather a reliability that was underrated. They did get a little away from their core strengths with 2009’s Keep Calm and Carry On (QRO review) and 2013’s Graffiti On the Train (QRO review), but never really faltered. Thankfully, that is still the case, as the band gets a bit more back to their centre on Keep the Village Alive.
Like many albums, Village is roughly divided between the upbeat and downbeat, but it is the energetic songs that are the stronger. In particular this applies to the first & last pieces, “C’est la Vie” and “Mr and Mrs Smith”. The opener is some nice garage-rollick having a real good time, and while the closer is almost country-like in its subject (an ignored wife finding love on the sly) – you could see suburban housewives out on the town in cowboy hats & boots loving it – it is really fun. Meanwhile, the sadder side of Village does tend to veer into torch songs (“White Lies”, “Song for the Summer”).
Keep the Village Alive doesn’t break new ground and likely won’t recruit new fans (soccer moms with their thumbs in the loops of their tight jeans while they line dance notwithstanding – but that’s America for ya…), but it most definitely keeps the Stereophonics alive.