The Levellers - Truth And Lies
Not that many bands make it to seven albums, and most of us certainly never wanted the Levellers to. Vaguely political, unglamorous and ploddingly traditional, they attracted a big following in the early nineties amongst dread locked student hippy types who thought that washing was for The Man and adding violins to rock was a good idea.
For a band whose biggest hit was 'Beautiful Day', it's therefore both perfectly fitting and a huge shock to find they've gone all U2 on our asses. Well almost; U2 won't be doing a song called 'Who's The Daddy' anytime soon (we pray) but as the opening track's chorus blasts into the stratosphere like a ballsy A-ha, the sparky production and punchy guitar have Bono & co's current sound all over them.
That same fresh but not slick feel continues throughout the whole album, and how neatly everything is woven together shows both the experience gained by 17 years playing together and a good choice of knob-twiddler in Mark Wallis, whose credits include (yep!) U2 and Travis. There's plenty going on in every song, with mandolin and second guitar filling any gaps around the acoustic and drums, while keyboards subtly underpin the majority to bump the choruses up an extra gear.
After surprisingly rocky opener 'Last Man Alive', 'Make You Happy' is all major chord strumming with the violin kept on a leash and 'Confess' pushes the keyboards forward to nudge entertainingly toward George Michael's 'Freedom'. After six tracks however it all does start to blur, partly due to the lyrics which being neither good nor bad merely seem to slide by. But this is the only obvious shortcoming, and when 'Sleeping' closes the album with a few seconds of pretty strings, you're left feeling surprisingly upbeat as the record whirrs to a finish.
Sounding sprightly for their age and playing their own festival this month, things are looking good for the Levellers, and in the enjoyable 'Truth & Lies' they might well have made the best shiny folk rock album all summer. And who saw that coming?