London Brixton Academy
Things are rarely as bad as they seem. “She left me on Friiidaayy”, barks the newly-bearded Rick Witter. “And she ruined my weekend”. Just the weekend, mind. No protracted periods of pondering the meaning of existence while listening to ‘OK Computer’ for Shed Seven. A couple of days of minor discomfort and it’s back down the pub. Good call, chaps!
Then again, that’s the kind of stolid, no-nonsense approach that we’ve come to expect from York’s most significant gift to pop posterity. No mess, no fuss, just brutal, meat and tatties indie pop all the way. Smart-arsed scenesters might accuse them of being terminally unambitious dullards who clog up the gap between ten and 30 in the charts with singles nobody’s ever actually heard but that’s just not so. The first thing that is staggering about Shed Seven this evening is just how many of their hits you instantly recognise. Like that one that goes, “It’s like I’ve never been born”, that’s ‘On Standby’ and it’s bloody marvellous.
Unnerving stuff as you can well imagine, made even more so by the fact that they’ve got other songs – ‘Getting Better’, ‘Chasing Rainbows’ – that have precisely the same effect. Shed Seven, by some curious process of osmosis have seeped into our consciousness in the last four years. The odds were stacked against them, you see. Born of that generation who emerged between the death of baggy and the birth of Britpop, they’ve had to stand by, shuffling disconsolately, as the big waves bore lesser talents aloft. They persevered, though, and as Rick Witter gallivants around the stage making slack-jawed poses at the adoring multitudes, they’ve come to accept their reward. Not an award for imagination, obviously, but for their intuitive understanding of that most fundamental of crafts: ‘proper’ songwriting.
Amazingly enough, though Noelrock may have led some to believe otherwise, these are not dirty words. Musically, Shed Seven are plodders and Witter’s voice still trembles on the brink of being nondescript, so they have no choice but to be greater than the sum of their parts. So with a dash of self-deprecating humour and a great big dollop of earnest craftsmanship, they play plain-speaking pop really rather well. The tracks debuted from new album ‘Let It Ride’ demonstrate that having come so far with this magic formula, they’ve got no intention of messing with it. Hence ‘Let It Ride’ itself is a fantastic dose of ersatz Rolling Stones bombast and ‘The Heroes’ is a sly half attempt at an epic.
‘Half Way Home’, meanwhile, is Shed Seven at their artless best – a masterpiece of rhetorical underkill. A simple song about being onstage and wanting to be back at home, presumably watching The Bill with a cup of tea and some Jaffa Cakes, made into something defiantly splendid thanks to a few rudimentary flourishes of their guitars. They finish by sliding effortlessly into ‘Going For Gold’. In a few minutes drummer Alan Leach will make his customary vault over his kit and the Sheds will dissolve into the darkness. Right now they could go on forever. Things are rarely as bad as they seem, and on some nights, they’re a hell of a lot better.