Album review

The Wannadies : Before & After
Int Records / Cooking Vinyl

The Wannadies : Before & AfterThe Wannadies . . . didn't they do that You And Me Song? Yes, they did and I'm sure I won't be the only person approaching this album with a similarly vague yet pleasing memory of a funky punkish band who's infectious hit stuck in my mind for months and remains instantly recognizable years later.
    So where have they been all this time? Well, back to the drawing board according to their latest label Cooking Vinyl, who took on this, their sixth album, after they struggled to find a UK label after 2000's Yeah. After three years wandering in the wilderness they've clearly done some thinking, and this latest offering reflects a new maturity and a subtle development of ideas within the group, offering glimpses of the future mixed with a hearty helping of the past. Full of potential, and simmering with optimism, this album contains enough original ideas to be constantly engaging, but doesn't distance itself too much from the band's familiar roots, and so remains accessible to hardened fans and delighted newcomers alike.

The album is divided into two halves, being obviously 'Before' and 'After'. The first half is a definitive return to the catchy, contagious pop/rock roots of Be A Girl which is bound to bring a nostalgic smile to those of us old enough to remember way back into the distant haze of the mid 90s. And if you're hoping for another helping of happy-go-lucky hooks and addictive choruses then the first two tracks Little By Little and Nothing Wrong won't disappoint, both having the potential to be instant hits in their own right.
    But whilst the rest of 'Before' rattles and hums like the old Wannadies, songs like Skin and Uri Gellar lack the unique zest of the band's former glory, despite being half decent tunes.
    Fortunately there's something of a mini revival at the end of 'Before' with All Over Me, which lets rip with a little rock reminiscence – for old times sake.

The second half sounds like the product of several weeks locked away in a lonely Scandinavian log cabin with a load of hi-tech recording equipment and a variety of happiness enhancing substances. It's a much more quirky and reflective affair, which hints at new directions without straying too far from the essence of their original sound.
We're instantly drawn in by the contrastingly soft and melodic opening of Disko, one of the best tracks on the whole album and a inspired introduction to The Wannadies latest groove.
    The whole of 'After' sounds like it was written and performed with a glimmer of mischief in their eyes . . . but essentially, it breathes new life and creativity into a band which could have so easily slipped into a cycle of wistful repetition – constantly trying to recreate the transitory triumph of the past. Again, not every track is a classic, but songs such as Come With Me and the beautifully simple Love Letter ensure that 'After' is every bit as good as 'Before' and overall gains the edge through its innovate approach and unique character.

The decision (or was it indecision?) to include two distinctively different, reflective and progressive halves may not have been the most daring venture, but it certainly seems to have been a shrewd move for what is being viewed as their 'comeback' album, and appears to have paid off. Comparisons with bands like Athlete are undoubtedly deserved and favorable, the only question which remains is 'will they find their audience?' I certainly hope so.
    Full of that early nineties Brit-pop optimism and healthy enthusiasm, The Wannadies are back from a time before it became uncool to have fun, and sing along to your favorite songs in public. Just when you think the music industry is getting far too serious for it's own good Before And After hails a refreshing and welcome return by a band who know a thing or two about writing a toe-tapping classic.

:: Tom West

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