After disbanding just before the turn of the millennium, alternative indie rock stalwarts The Boo Radleys reformed in 2020, as the calendars approached 25 years since the band’s heyday. Now, a string of phoenix-like releases has seen the Merseyside natives take on new life with their Eighth album, the aptly named ‘Eight’.
With Simon Rowbottom’s light vocals and the employment of horns, vibrant bass and shining guitars – this album arrives at the right time, presenting a solid backlog of easy listening summer pop-rock. Although, with that said, the band aren’t afraid to negotiate tough topics within the mix.
‘Seeker’ gets things started with a warm glow. Carried by those aforementioned horns and an ascending bassline, there’s a certain positivity present as both lyricism (Loneliness and fear are gone / Replaced by hopefulness) and instrumentals intertwine to tell the tale of a love’s new hope, where once was dismay.
While ‘The Unconscious’ takes on a more funky hold with ear catching bass – ‘Hollow’ presents a more foreboding angle as Rowbottom intones a narrative that possesses a deep vulnerability. Lyrics like I have a hollow so deep inside / I try to fill it both with vodka and wine. The hollow is the place where the feelings (I’m) Happy to hide, reside. This track seems to be a weighty inward look and the light vocal and instrumentals somewhat juxtapose the lyrics.
After this, ‘Skeleton Woman’ impresses with a different pace and tempo altogether. A new percussive input is present in hand drums, whilst fleeting keys float the song along. Just past the two-minute mark, a brilliant piece of trumpet pierces through – making for a tense and atmospheric feel, similar to that of a noir detective mystery in inner city LA in the 50s. This offers a stark contrast to the next track - ‘Now That’s What I Call Obscene’, this possessing a bounding radio-friendly sound.
‘Way I Am’ takes the listener back to this prior atmospheric drive, with the introduction of strings, yet the lead vocal is somewhat off-putting – drawn out and unnatural. It sounds autotuned or something an AI curated on an electronic mix pad. That said, there are positive points with these strings – also with a semi-melancholic guitar riff. This dances nicely in the string-created spaces.
Of the second half of the album, much of what was heard was generic and relatively non-descript. Musically impressive at times it was crisply mixed and well balanced, yet just didn’t really jump out. It had the near-royalty-free feel to it at times. Out of the mire, it should be said that tracks like ‘Wash Away That Feeling’ with its pleasant harmonies and bassline sounding like it had been ripped right out of a Joy Division playbook ( a la ‘Digital’), were a nice listen. The synth-clad swagger of ‘Swift’s Requiem’ was notable too, with its mellow feel and easy tempo.
On the whole, as said earlier, the album reflected musical talent – yet it didn’t quite inspire the memories of the band’s heyday. It was intricate and thoughtful in parts, yet also forgettable and mediocre. With all things considered, don’t let my somewhat harsh words get you down – if you want to relive The Boo Radley’s greatest hits, the band are on tour this summer – kicking off in Reading today (at time of writing), the 13th of June.