There may be no surprises, no leaps of imagination to be eked from The Webb Brothers' small world, but when the results are this wonderful, really, who cares?
They don’t make life easy for themselves, The Webb Brothers. While others in possession of such a formidable heritage would be at pains to express their individuality through wildly alternative means (techno, say, or perhaps free-jazz), Christian and Justin – sons of scarily talented songwriter Jimmy ‘Witchita Lineman’ Webb – seem oblivious to the criticisms their chosen route will attract.
There’s no doubt they’ve stitched themselves a rather restrictive suit. A faded Badfinger patch here, a battered ‘Pet Sounds’ lapel-pin there, the heady scent of ‘Eau De ’68’ clinging resiliently to the lining: it’s easy to mock their future-shirking nostalgia-mania. Not least because their chosen brand of ’60s happy/sad pop ain’t a million miles from what their old fella was scribbling 30 years ago.
Still, it requires a certain fortitude to stick to the same narrow, dusty trail while all around are succumbing to the influences of technology. It requires focus and self-belief to continue when fashion and reason demand otherwise. And, above all, it requires genuine skill to make such a defiantly arcane venture succeed. And, despite all the odds, succeed it does.
For The Webb Brothers, bless their ridiculous bowl-cuts, have got skill in huge, pop-sized spades, imbuing their shamelessly retro bag with wit, style and enough enthusiasm to squash the limitations that would scupper lesser, ’60s-crazed souls. From the Beatles-y chant-along of ‘Come On Over’, through sparkling early-Bowie cabaret (‘Sour Grapes’) to wispy, almost formless psychedelia (‘Maroon’), the Brothers’ grasp of the Classic Pop tune is never anything less than assured. Even when their impish muse shimmies across AOR battle-lines – gorgeous torch-song ‘Beyond the Biosphere’ is, essentially, Randy Newman in a glam-smeared jumpsuit – their charm makes it easy to forgive their indulgences.
What’s more, it’s all done with such a reassuringly daft sense of humour (at one point Christian even abandons the intro to ‘The Liar’s Club’ in favour of a gleeful rendition of Budweiser’s “WASSUUUUUPPPPPP?!” rallying cry), that any worries the Brothers have about their precious pastiche-coloured vehicle are quashed. There may be no surprises, no leaps of imagination to be eked from The Webb Brothers’ small world, but when the results are this wonderful, really, who cares?