Cast - Troubled Times

by Miz DeShannon Rating:7.5 Release Date:2012-03-05

In a time when guitar music is supposedly dead, we're seeing a plethora of 90s acts reform, re-emerge and re-do what they've done before in an attempt to prove this theory wrong, from Blur and Pulp to specifically Mancunian Madchester acts. Why shouldn't the Scousers get involved and regurgitate Cast, their very own Britpop wonders? Seeing as it's the band's 20th Anniversary, and they have seven top 10 singles under their belt, more than most of the recent reformers, are they not just as worthy of doing such a thing as The Inspiral Carpets?

Having been slated left, right and centre for this release with sweeping generalisations, it's hard to understand why Cast more than anyone else should feel such wrath. They've got a fanbase still in existence, have sold out shows across the UK in the last couple of years and are actually pretty fantastic live - having seen them soundcheck a great version of Led Zeppelin's 'Dazed and Confused' and then pull of a faultless show, that's a definite.

So what are people expecting? Them suddenly to show up on stage in fancy outfits a la LMFAO pushing a new vibe and sounding more like Sleigh Bells? That'd get slated even more. It'd be like asking Meshuggah to cover Joan Baez. This is what Cast do, deal with it - it's not cutting edge, it's not purporting to be anything we've never heard before. Troubled Times is simply a set of new songs, in their signature Mersey-beat inspired, laid-back guitar music style. Okay, it's not my perfect choice of listening, being into droney rock music, but I'd much rather have this on the Dansette than some of the desperate, trend-driven drivvel that's being pushed by one-hit wonders from their sophomore albums at the moment.

Cast's songs are historically four-chord strums, nicey-nicey middle-of-the-road tunes like 'Sandstorm' and 'Flying', which have, along with songs from other re-formed Britpop acts, inspired practically every band that's gone down the road of indie guitar music in the last 20 years. Troubled Times is not at all a progression from what the band have done before, but song titles such as 'Brother Fighting Brother' and 'Time Bomb' are possibly reflecting a more realistic side of their relationships.

Looking at a lot of bands who put out album after album, however, do they ever change their sound dramatically? Not really. With the producing skills of John Leckie again, this is Cast's fifth album, their first in 10 years, and with their original line-up of John Power (guitar/vocals), Liam 'Skin' Tyson (lead guitar), Pete Wilkinson (bass) and Keith O'Neill (drums). It, thankfully, has all the elements that their last four albums had: the bouncy acoustic strumming over O'Neill's pretty, varied and skillful drumming; vocal harmonies led by Power blatantly being all Beatles-like, making you want to bounce your head in time. Starting with 'Bow Down', very typically Cast, the rest of the tracks are vibrant and fun, sing-along-reliable, with good musicianship and harmonious vibes, nothing dour and gloomy. \particularly stand-out is 'A Boy Like Me'.

So that's that - it's a Cast album. No point in ripping apart every track, there's no boundary pushing, no new cutting edge orchestration, just good, reliable guitar music from a band with a good, reliable sound. And something much more listenable than Liam 'Squawky' Gallagher's offensive try-hard Beady Eye too. Which hasn't been anywhere near my Dansette.

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