Viva la Britpop! There's been a lot of talk lately about the resurrection of that old forgotten genre of Britpop. Mainly because bands like Kasabian, Franz Ferdinand, The Libertines, Razorlight, etc. are doing really rather well in terms of critical acclaim and unit shifting, and the NME bundled them all together and proclaimed Britpop back.
As much as I hate to admit it, I think they may be right. Clayhill bounce onto the music scene with their punchy beats, strummy acoustic guitars and catchy choruses in tow. Along with soundalike Ian Brown, Clayhill cut themselves out of the same 'funky but indie' cloth that Mr. Brown and his Stone Roses did all those years ago.
The production has come a long way though, as on opener 'Alpha Male', effects are buzzing all over the place, there's brass swelling here and there, and the vocals are right in your face (even if you can't totally understand them). Second track 'Northern Soul' is more upbeat danceable guitar music, destined to have all the indie kids up and down the land grooving in their parkas and swaggering like Bez. Good tune to do it to though. Catchy and uplifting, it's a pleasant slice of British guitar pop.
After the aforementioned indie boys and girls have stopped necking E's and are starting to come down, 'Moon I Hide' could possibly be Clayhill's answer to their musical prayers. It's a languid, downbeat but still dead catchy little number. Production all over it, the song is a little beauty from start to finish.
The upbeat anthems continue with 'Human Trace', a lively little song full of glockenspiels, strummed guitars and dramatic chord changes thrown in.
The album comes back down with the other album highlights, which include the mournful yet beautiful 'Rushes of Blonde', which include the desperate lyrics of "where were you when I was wasted?"
'Mystery Train' continues the theme, with drowsy, half- asleep vocals and hazy instrumentation, slip sliding along a backdrop of strings and jazzy drums. It's probably the strongest track here, as it shows Clayhill can actually tear themselves away from their guitars for a few minutes at least.
Ending the record with the bleak, Leonard Cohen- esque 'Afterlight' and the uplifting 'End Refrain', the curtain comes down on 'Small Circle'. Maybe a little long, without a real change of direction, but overall, this is a fine album, worth investigating if you long for the days of yore when every band you ever saw had a guitar and every song was as quirky and as playful as some of these.