Speak Your Language
Shamelessly nailing their rotting corpse to a sparkling celebrity wagon” is one way you could think of Five O’Clock Heroes’ recent collaboration with Agyness Deyn on their single ‘Who’. When Primal Scream, say, roped in Kate Moss to sing on their cover of ‘Some Velvet Morning’ back in 2002, it felt like an uncalculated risk being taken by a band at their critical peak. Even the least cynical observer, though, would wager the motives here are far less pure. Five O’Clock Heroes are hardly alone in using celeb mates for reflected glory, but considering the accompanying Agyness showreel video and that the amount of glossy magazine coverage it’s getting is in inverse proportion to the quality of the song or indeed the previous velocity of their plodding career, it’s impossible not to charge them with crimes against rock’n’roll. ‘Who’ isn’t Agyness’ fault. In fact, her singing’s fine, it’s just that the song’s a void. And the subsequent attempts at Belle & Sebastian-style sweet vignettes similarly lack charm.
The Pogues-y rattling pace and lyrical disquiet of opener ‘Judas’ manage to just about hold your attention, but proceedings take a sharp downward turn from thereon in. ‘New York Chinese Laundry’ is an embarrassing ode to singer Antony Ellis’ adopted home city; ‘Speak Your Language’ shamelessly kidnaps Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’ then slashes all traces of fun from Al’s face. ‘Alice’ is a song so twee even The Beautiful South would reject it as bland. ‘Trust’ is the tipping point, when Ellis’ voice will make you reach for a bleach and arsenic cocktail – he sounds like a gonad impersonating Paul Weller. Said mannerisms then make ‘Don’t Say Don’t’ that rare thing: a white reggae song where you actually wish the singer would put on a fake Jamaican accent.
Things marginally improve with ‘Everybody Knows It’ and ‘These Girls’, which shift towards Elvis Costello-style new wave. In fact, if the Heroes could add some Costello-style bite to their lyrics rather than toothless stuff like “I remember everything/You act like love is just a game” they could find a way out of the pits. It’s a long way up though – tail-enders ‘Radio Lover’ and ‘Happy Together’ lack heart, adventure, anger, joy – everything necessary to make them good. This isn’t criticism for the sake of it, it’s criticism asking them to change, or maybe stop, because this isn’t fun for anyone.