Country rock bands are supposed to come with at least five or six players, but this three piece band from Sussex are doing things their own way. True enough, there's plenty of guest musicians on this album with Spencer Cullum's pedal steel a particularly strong presence. How this all translates into a live set, I'd be intrigued to see. Anyway, Society have been around as a band since 2004 and this album follows pretty hard on the heels of 2010's Songs From The Brickhouse, which clearly established some momentum for the band.
The vocal harmonies, the pedal steel and the swirling organ all show a strong penchant for Californian country rock and I like the way that these elements seem to bring a widescreen romanticism to their homegrown songs. Frontman and guitarist Matt Wise is the band's songwriter and whilst you can feel that his songs are inspired by encounters and relationships at home in Britain, it also seems these are recast through an American frame of mind. I was trying to ignore the arrangements and see if these songs could be sung by Morrissey, for instance, and I couldn't see it. Nonetheless, this is country rock with an undeniably British accent and in that it is part of an increasingly strong tradition reaching back to the 70s - as soon as The Band did their thing, there were British musicians hot on their heels, with Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance being just one example frequently cited at the moment.
The distinctive thing with Society is that they have a strong Britpop element to their sound as well; there's a couple of near-direct lifts from Oasis amongst these songs but, maybe it's the three piece thing, I could hear rather more of Dodgy about them (which is fine by me because Dodgy were probably my favourite band in that Britpop flowering of 95/96). Anyway, two tracks side by side illustrate the point: Judge and Jury could easily have been done by The Band, whilst Crawling Over Town has the vocals, the descending chords and the whole structure of mid-late period Oasis. I'm just not aware that Oasis ever got a pedal steel player in.
These guys are great at melody, every song is really strong at hooking you in - there's a kind of instant familiarity about their material - whilst at the same time there are little sections here and there where they're developing something more subtle and interesting than just a happy pop tune. It's terrible to accuse a band of trying too hard but the only thing stopping me from really enthusing about this album is a sort of nagging insistence in the delivery that crowds out the sweetness and light that's there to be found in these songs. That's all in the ear of the beholder of course; by any standards Society are a good band with really strong songs that I'm sure sound fantastic on stage: they'll be around for a while yet, I reckon.
Add a Comment