"Graffiti On The Train", Stereophonics' eighth studio album, is unlikely to win them any new fans, garner any reviews littered with gushing accolades or, indeed, change many peoples minds about them. It is, however, rather an enjoyable listen for somebody who has always liked the band and Kelly Jones' writing, without always liking everything they have always done. I'm not convinced that this album is any real new direction, but it certainly features a slight more widescreen, evolved, mature version of the band which, considering the fact they've been around for over twenty years, shouldn't be much of a surprise. However, this album is most definitely recognisable as a Stereophonics release, even with the added orchestral touches and the usual bombast toned down a little, so there is no chance of them alienating any of their current fans.
The strings-adorned title track with its rather beautiful guitar solo is certainly one of the highlights, although the point Kelly is trying to make through the lyrics, if any, has been lost on me. "Indian Summer", again featuring plenty of strings boldly punctuating the chorus, is a particularly likeable song, "Catacomb" is a pounding, relentless chunk of indie-rock which, frankly, sounds great and "Roll The Dice" is a classy, emotive, ambitious composition and is, in my opinion, probably the best thing on the whole release. Final track, the poignant, vulnerable and rather beautiful "No-one's Perfect", completes my personal pick of the highlights from "Graffiti On The Train", but it also has to be said that there is also nothing particularly dislikeable on the album either.
It seems like having a break for a few years, recruiting a new drummer and spending a long time choosing the songs and getting the album sounding exactly how they wanted has paid off. It's a very good album indeed, with a handful of stand-out tracks which make this a worthy purchase for anyone who has enjoyed a Stereophonics album in the past. OK, it's not exactly "Performance and Cocktails", but it's a much better album than most people would expect from the group at this stage of their career and deserves a wider audience than they get these days. A lot of people seem to have written Stereophonics off... rather unfairly, it seems.