'Over the Counter Culture' is a restless, energetic record that demands to be heard.
Richard Banks 2004
Of all the 'Britpack' hopefuls that have emerged in the last twelve months, fresh-faced southerners The Ordinary Boys are undoubtedly the most British. You can hear it in their songs, read it in their lyrics ("I'll be reading in the kitchen sipping lazy cups of tea" sings frontman, Preston, on 'Just a Song') and, most distinctly, trace it in their all-too-obvious musical influences. Yes, there's a shed-load of the Jam, The Smiths and Gene to be heard in Over the Counter Culture, but look past the easy comparisons and a confident, bullish debut begins to assert itself.
Rather predictably, The Ordinary Boys take their name from a song on Morrissey's Viva Hate. I say 'predictably' because although Preston has a wonderfully articulate and melodic voice, the resemblance to Morrissey is uncanny. Elements of Martin Rossiter's more acerbic manner are also detectable, especially on the embittered 'In Awe of the Awful' and 'Weekend Revolution'. Regardless, this album showcases one of the most promising vocal talents in (dare I say it) Britpop today.
Lyrically, Over the Counter Culture is a very disgruntled record throughout, full of surprisingly mature, sometimes tongue-in-cheek social commentary. Since Preston rarely sings in the first person, it's an album of detached observation rather than personal sentiment. On 'Weekend Revolution' and 'Seaside', he voices the frustration of a generation of 9-5 workers fresh out of college ("You're overdrawn and underpaid and overweight"), and advocates the benefits of a trip to the coast over a weekend spent in the pub. Elsewhere, radio playlists and (ahem) music journalists get a bashing on 'The List Goes On', although it's hard not to find the line "originality is so passé" a little hypocritical considering the transparency of The Ordinary Boys' influences.
Most impressive, however, is the band's instinctive aptitude for writing cracking pop tunes with truly infectious hooks. With its towering chorus and manic pace, early single 'Maybe Someday' is probably the album's highlight, but the 'Boys also pull off a decent cover of The Specials' 'Little Bitch', retaining all the original skank, but giving it a Britpop shot in the arm that recalls Menswear's 'Stardust'. On the whole, Over the Counter Culture is a restless, energeticrecord that demands to be heard. Although it's not ground-breaking, it's by no means ordinary.