A pleasant, episodically excellent return from the Power-ful Britpop outfit.
Iain Moffatt 2012-02-23
With today's biggest guitar bands harking back to the age of Adidas, alcopops and amphetamines, it's no great surprise that the class of 95 are getting in on the act again, and hot on the heels of Dodgy's just-about-good-enough return comes the re-emergence of some rather more central players. You heard: history may not have been awfully kind to Cast, but they were the point at which the Britpop pendulum swung from Blur to Oasis, and, although they were significantly a People's Band, they had a frontman in John Power with sufficient previous form and garrulous charm to ensure that critical fondness was never far away either. So what will they have to offer the divided-Gallaghers generation?
Well, approaching a Cast album in search of wheel reinvention was always a fool's errand, and that hasn't changed a bit, so of course Troubled Times is sincere 60s-isms a go-go. They always had a mild knack of unearthing diamonds from the retro rough, though, and that kicks in with familiar occasionalness here. The final minute of See That Girl, for example, is as splendidly psychedelic as anything they've ever done, while, excitingly, Silver and Gold wouldn't disgrace the upbeat end of Richard Hawley's canon. Best of all, Brother Fighting Brother is both a powerhouse pop song and, uncharacteristically, actually quite topical with the summer of unrest still freshly remembered.
Frankly, though, their absence hasn't exactly ironed out the problems that beset them initially. There was always a chasm between the offstage wide-eyed erudition and their frequent on-record tendency towards the prosaic, and opener Bow Down's stuck-on-repeat two-word chorus bodes very badly indeed, while a lyric like "Maybe it's gonna rain / Like never before in Spain" is barely the stuff of Ivor Novellos. Worse, the line between classicist and characterless is particularly fine, and it's all too often negotiated inexpertly here. Sure, as a pleasant, episodically excellent way to spend three-quarters of an hour, this is something of a success; but in terms of composing a manifesto for why Cast should matter to a new-millennial audience, Power struggles just that bit too much.