There is a track on this album that I can’t quite tell if it’s meant to be ironic or not. In The List Goes On, The Ordinary Boys lament that “Originality is so passé”, and that they’ve heard it all done before, a hundred years ago. The whole song is a criticism of rehashing forgotten genres just for the money.
The irony that strikes me about this is that The Ordinary Boys can very easily be seen as part of a recent rehash themselves; namely, the 80s rock revival, alongside such notables as Franz Ferdinand and The Killers. They not only sound like an 80s band — I’m thinking along the lines of Duran Duran, except, well, good — they look like an 80s band as well; only the mullets are missing.
None of this is necessarily a bad thing. I have fond memories of 80s culture, and I’ve been championing the cause of Franz Ferdinand to my peers for more than a year now. I love The Killers, and really, I love The Ordinary Boys as well, but when they start complaining about how everything sounds the same these days, well, it’s hard to take when you listen to their music and you can’t help but draw comparisons with grimy suburban groups of 15 years ago.
Despite the upbeat sound to most of the songs on Over the Counter Culture, they are actually pretty depressing. England is shit, is effectively the message they give, and whilst I’d be the last person to argue with them, it can be a little disheartening to realise that this young, fresh-faced poppy group is singing with the cynicism and bitterness that I’d previously thought only 6 years in Kent could give you. “Last year’s dream was a terrible scheme, and this new fad will fade.”, they sing in the title track, and they complain of materialism and credit on Week In, Week Out. Try listening to that one on your freshly-bought iPod.
How’s the weather?
Almost the entire album is one big whinge, but I like whinging, so that’s ok by me. Talk Talk Talk rants about the inanity of English life, which starves them of intellectual debate and discussion in favour of glossy magazine articles and supermarket queues — “Too much small talk leads to a small mind, so tell me what your views are, and I will tell you mine…” Then there’s Weekend Revolution, an acerbic tirade against the drudgery of a nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday existence, and Settle Down, attacking closed minds and over-passionate opinions.
This is an exceptionally likeable album, despite it’s frustrated, claustrophobic content. The lyrics are catchy, the music bouncy — you find yourself tapping along to the beat before realising that you’re being cheered up by a song that mentions hanging yourself. But this is, I think, an essential part of the 80s revival; it isn’t just about wearing jeans with a suit jacket, sleeves rolled up, nor is it just about the way the music sounds — it’s also about the discontent, and the exasperation. As in the 80s, we are faced today with governments riding roughshod over civil liberties, preferring to court big business than to take notice of the views of the voters. Just as the likes of Oasis, Blur, and Pulp gave the English 90s its sound, it is bands such as The Ordinary Boys that will ensure this so-far unstable decade has an appropriate soundtrack.