Live from Dakota
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2006, Volume 13, #4
Written by Tracy M. Rogers
A decade after it was formed, Stereophonics now stands at the peak of its popularity. The band’s latest effort Live from Dakota is dedicated to its fans, and the sprawling two-disc, 20-track collection features material that was culled from its 2005 world tour. The selections span the outfit’s career, and by fusing crisp, punk-powered drums and visceral, heavy metal-flavored guitars with front man Kelly Jones’ wailing, Cockney-inflected sneer, Live from Dakota makes it clear that the group is heavily influenced by Metallica, Radiohead, and Oasis.
A majority of the newer songs on Live from Dakota blend together — not because they lack hooks, but because the hooks (and lyrics for that matter) are drowned out by an onslaught of cumbersome guitar riffs and feedback. Tunes such as the opening Superman and the sinister Doorman fall into this category, with melody taking a back seat to power chords and lyrics delivered in an inscrutable whine. Even the title track — which, in its studio incarnation, featured a melodic, almost pop countenance — gets a metal makeover that ultimately dissolves into all but cacophony. In concert, the Stereophonics’ combination of power pop, metal, punk, and Brit pop is undoubtedly irresistible. It does not, however, translate quite as well onto CD. Likewise, the album gets bogged down as one power chord blends into another and one song sounds just like the next.
Surprisingly, it is the Stereophonics’ back catalog that saves Live from Dakota. The Radiohead knock-offs I’m Alright (You Gotta Go There and Come Back) and Traffic feature far less white noise and far more intricate percussion, allowing Jones’ vocals as well as the band’s pop influences to come to the fore. Likewise, the Oasis-esque Just Looking — from 1999’s Performance and Cocktails — features an audible guitar hook and a power pop chorus worthy of Matthew Sweet. The down and dirty groove of 2003’s Madame Helga — from the album You Gotta Go There and Come Back — is also rather delectable in a Black Crowes-meets-Thin Lizzie sort of way.
At its best, Live from Dakota finds the Stereophonics plumbing the depths of high energy, rock ‘n' roll-laden anthems. At its worst, the album finds the band falling into a monotonous sea of indecipherable power chords that are devoid of both hooks and melodies. The Stereophonics might have been better served to cut a few tracks in the interest of making the set tighter and less repetitive. Perhaps, however, Live from Dakota is truly what the Stereophonics intended — a rough and ready live set for its existing base of fans. ˝
Live from Dakota is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box