Witness : Under A Sun

Wigan miserablists relocate to Bristol. Still miserable. New man has funny name

For much-touted Next Big Things, Witness’ 1999 debut album ‘Before The Calm’ was a bleak work lacking in tunes. Relocating to Bristol, and bringing in ex-Strangelove multi-instrumentalist Julian Pransky-Poole has, however, transformed them. Witness may still trade in (faintly) countrified indie-rock but ‘Under A Sun’ reveals a band capable of writing pithy pop songs. A band who don’t moulder, but smoulder before exploding into insistent choruses which, despite misgivings you might have about such radio-friendly guitar rock, ultimately win you over. A band who’ve discovered something of The Verve’s slide-guitar swagger.

Granted, it’s old men’s music. But, where Stereophonics’ Kelly Jones seems intent on paring everything down to absolute basics, Witness are weaving ornate tapestries. The subtle complexity and warmly wistful tone of ‘Closing Up’ isn’t a million miles from Elbow’s ‘Scattered Black And Whites’, while ‘My Time Alone’ is the best single REM never wrote; chords crashing and splashing in a melancholic Californian sun.

Although it takes too long to get going and is not without its dodgy moments (‘Mines” almost pastiche country tinges, or slight should-be-B-side ‘Warning’, for instance), ‘Under The Sun’ has an honesty, depth and a winning Big Music communality that could weedle its way into Britain’s affections.

Tony Naylor