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English rockers Sports activities Group have returned with their hotly anticipated sophomore album Gulp!. A way more refined physique of labor than their 2020 debut Deep Down Pleasedit sees the band grapple with extra mature themes than their detractors would count on, pushing their boundaries musically and production-wise.
As is anticipated, there are memorable and forgettable moments, however one factor is definite, Sports activities Group aren’t going wherever simply but, with the self-awareness of Gulp! a welcome side. In actual fact, it would simply be their making, a undertaking that helps to reset their course.
“You see so many narratives daily,” says guitarist Rob Knaggs within the press supplies. “You get up, see a video about The Oscars and you then go on The Guardian and examine Ukraine and you then go on Instagram and see somebody’s canine and somebody’s birthday and it is Mom’s Day. There are countless clashing photographs and sooner or later it simply turns into like a bizarre background noise to your life.”
Though the band may declare that they’ve moved away from their early influences of Nineteen Nineties alt-rock, similar to Pavement and the surreal social commentaries of Pulp, they have not gone wherever; they’ve simply been repurposed. In actual fact, there’s nonetheless a defining Britpop affect coursing via the file, with tracks similar to ‘Dig’ channeling flecks of Elastica and ‘The Drop’ that of Blur — this is not a criticism although. For essentially the most half, Sports activities Group make the uncooked supplies their very own.
There are additionally dominant hues of center England’s favourite band, XTC, with the band doing their greatest Andy Partridge impression on items similar to ‘Kool Support’ and ‘Leisure’. As for the permanence of Pavement throughout the band’s sound, look no additional than ‘Unstuck’.
The album begins off strongly with the thunderous reduce ‘The Sport’, and it’s carried by frontman Alex Rice’s efficiency, which is his most rousing thus far. He sings: “Oh yeah, that is the sport, life’s arduous, however I can not complain”, in what’s a pointy tackle the issues and confusion of recent existence that Knaggs mentioned. It then segues into the only ‘Dig’, which blends the not too long ago out-of-date obsession with post-punk with the love of Britpop that most of the indie sleaze bands of the noughties can be happy with.
Adopted by ‘The Drop’, the opening three tracks of the album are robust, however it quickly tails off into what’s extra of the identical, with it arduous to tell apart between most of the album’s center tracks due to comparable rhythms, dynamics and instrumentation. . I worry these are the areas that Sports activities Group may come unstuck sooner or later, however for now, followers can rejoice as they’ve undoubtedly re-energized their method.
Regardless of the criticisms that may be fired at Gulp!, the closing observe ‘Mild Trade’ is a good way to complete the album. The keyboard sound is nothing however nostalgic and is plucked straight from the oeuvre of Stereolab. It’s a welcome stylistic shift, even whether it is minor. From the guitar sound to the dynamics, it is a genuinely refreshing second, with the band aptly closing the guide on their second file with one other piece of sharp social commentary.
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Sports activities Group matures with sophomore effort ‘Gulp!’
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