Album Review by Adam Foster
One of South London’s best-kept secrets, Smotherlove have a knack of writing instantly memorable guitar-driven pop-rock songs. Best of all, their songs grow on you as you get past the hook and begin to listen to the lyrics in more depth.
With a vocalist (Ruth Howlett) who hovers somewhere between Delores O’Riordan of the Cranberries and Cindy Wilson of the B-52s, and a guitarist and song-writer-in-chief (Andy Sutton) intent on making even the prettiest songs a little bit edgy, they are never going to be dull. But there are some cracking songs here – even if the titles sometimes don’t seem to match up to your memory.
TOO FAR, for instance, is actually the song with the great “what’s the attraction” hook; a joyous romp sung by Howlett like her life depended on it; UNSETTLED is the one with haunting “ooh-ooh-ooh-hoo” bit and the “this girl next door” lyric (once heard, never forgotten); FROM TIME TO TIME, a great song about differing perspectives on past relationships, is the one you remember as “me in a different time”; and DRIFTWOOD (which mercifully bears no relation to the dreadful Travis song of the same title), the most ambitious song here, is best remembered by its “don’t you know her name?” hook. Only STAY does exactly what it says on the tin, delivering another up-tempo song about confused relationships whose chorus actually contains the word “stay”.
Only two quibbles about this collection, and they boil down to the same thing. Why have two versions of the (admittedly excellent) STAY here, when you have such a strong back catalogue to play with – JENNY ANYTIME, EMOTIONLESS or PICTURES, for instance? And why – oh why – leave off the beautiful CHRISTIANIA, a song which can make you weep for a civilisation you didn’t even know existed?
Perhaps it’s a just a ploy to make you see them live. If you can, do. If you can’t, these tracks can be heard on their website.