National Heroes - Tales Of The Town EP

Dan Round 05/11/2006

Rating: 3/5

Watford's National Heroes are an old-fashioned troupe - singing of 16th century Queens, clad in pork-pie hats and stripped suits, and taking influence from the most English of bands (The Kinks, XTC, etc.). This E.P. is almost like a mini-manifesto for the good shores of Albion in 2006; talking about the “sign of the times” and telling stories of the run-down side of London, they borrow quite heavily from messrs Doherty and Barat, and their Utopian-England dreams. Nevertheless, on first track of four, Boys Of Britain, the band apply a swaggering riff and frantic chord sequence and singer Scott McNamara (no relation, I assume, of Embrace's less interesting main-man) imposes himself as a less drug ravaged Pete Doherty (despite one reference to “weed”). A great sign of the times itself, the song is soooooo 2006, but that's no bad thing - the band use the sharp hooks, rapid harmonies and smart lyrics well, and come across a cut above the current surge of Arctic Monkeys, Libertines and Razorlight rip-offs.

Tracks 2 and 3 are disappointing following this; Riot Vans And CS Cans rants about “Neo-Nazis” and the morality of today's youth - “where's the chapels and the shrines?” McNamara asks rhetorically. It comes with a compulsory drunk sounding interlude towards the end in which the instruments collapse around each other (like a hell of a lot of the Babyshambles album, then). It was almost certainly planned, but it does not bide well. Slightly better, Mary Rose is an ironic tale about the “16th century Queen of war” with a patronising chant of “Oh Mary/Oh, Oh Mary” in the chorus. Finale Alphabet Circus picks the E.P. up a level again, proving how good the National Heroes really can be. With wonderfully disjunctive bass stabbings over McNamara's ever smart wordsmithery, the song soars and the rousing chorus puts National Heroes up there with The Paddingtons and The Pigeon Detectives as one of British Indie's new, credible hopes - with a view for mainstream success, and a chance to preach to the masses.

Tales Of The Town is not a perfect collection of songs, but National Heroes rise up above their contemporaries in offering an intelligence coated with supremely old-hat, punk-pop indiedom. They will surely get it right when it comes to the L.P