Painting It Red
After 11 years, it's time the drizzle stopped.
Quite what's made them so successful is anyone's guess. While other groups wrestling with the inner workings of the British psyche attempt to spice things up with a bit of romance, glamour and imagination (Pulp, Black Box Recorder etc), The Beautiful South offer a grinding and remorseless cinima viriti, permanently chained to an Alan Bennett-inspired worldview of brown booze and Rich Tea biscuits that they never deviate from for an instant.
Their old Housemartins pal, Norman Cook - aka Fatboy Slim - might be down as "rhythm consultant", but everything else about 'Painting It Red' is all too familiar. The band are still rolling out the same unspectacular, red-nosed, Radio 2 Northern soul, while Heaton and Rotheray rehash the same cycle of dour reality songwriting.
While some people obviously think that this represents a refreshing alternative to all that strange Ibiza nonsense that constitutes the charts these days, for anyone under the age of 37, it's enough to make you lose the will to live.
It's hard to judge what will upset NME readers most about this record. On one hand, there's the endless lyrics about backache ('If We Crawl'), infidelity ('Just Checkin'') and tired love ('Final Spark') morosely quacked out by Heaton and Jacqueline Abbott. On the other, there's the pedestrian plod of the music (every other track).
'Painting It Red' is billed as a "back-to-basics" affair. Much like when Reef said the same thing earlier this year, you have to wonder how much more basic things could get. Ultimately, all it means is that there are no choirs or strings or brass sections or anything that will distract you from the aural porridge that gradually slides over your face as the record unfurls. There's not even a 'Song For Whoever' or an 'Old Red Eyes Is Back' to lighten the mood.
The Beautiful South's uncanny ability to soundtrack the mundanity of existence has served them well, but enough is enough. Life and music are about more than this. After 11 years, it's time the drizzle stopped.
To read all our reviews first - days before they appear online - check out NME magazine, on sale every Wednesday