When The Xcerts released ‘Scatterbrain’ in October 2010, no-one – especially the band themselves – could have predicted that it would be four years before they released another long player. It’s not like the band have been lazy. They’ve toured relentlessly, played with brilliant bands like Biffy Clyro across Europe and became a reliable highlight at all the best festivals (T in the Park 2011, 2000 Trees and their two appearances at the Pav Tav during The Great Escape in Brighton are testament to that) and are clearly loved by all those who know them. They’ve made no secret of the fact that ‘There Is Only You’ is the record they want to make them a big band. The singles ‘Shaking in the Water’ and ‘Pop Song’ certainly back this up, but will the rest of the record help them achieve their goal?
The band don’t quite return with a bang, the opening ‘2.12.12’ is a fairly minimalist instrumental piece with hints of grandiose strings… It’s not The Xcerts we know but it’s certainly an interesting start and offers a tiny glimpse of what’s to come in the record’s more subtle moments. As soon as it drifts into Murray Macleod’s opening shout of ‘Somebody bring me back to life’ on ‘Live Like This’ we’re back in familiar Xcerts territory – and there’s no better place to be. The loud pop sound that the band do so well, there’s a certain gloss and sheen in the production that makes it a song that would happily sit alongside the more recent output of their compatriots Frightened Rabbit. A piano-led breakdown is perfectly timed and played out and then it’s time for ‘Shaking in the Water’. Now, if you’ve seen The Xcerts over the past three-and-a-half years you’ll have definitely heard this song – and most certainly found yourself humming its striking melody over and over again. The recorded version captures the joyous gusto that has had people singing along and is pretty much the perfect pop song.
That it’s followed with another live favourite from the trio’s run of shows last year – ‘Kick It’ – makes for a phenomenal welcome back and it’s one that will be filling the air at festivals throughout 2015. A real summer anthem with a killer chorus, Murray lays his feelings bare in a mixture of heartbreak, wisdom and a glimpse of optimism, going from stating: ‘Let’s just stop, yeah we’ll speak in the morning when your thoughts will be so obscure’ to ‘I only wanted your love’. Any band that names a song after ‘Kevin Costner’ deserves praise and it’s a track that gives an approving nod back to one of the band’s early highlights ‘Crisis in the Slow Lane’, especially as it has the same wistful yearning: ‘Nostalgia be gone’ and ‘If love is warm then why am I so cold?’ being two key lines. Both of these themes form the basis of the album – there are plenty of love songs but also assessments of mistakes the band have made and healthy melancholia dosed amidst the glorious pop hooks. Much like ‘Pop Song’, ‘Teenage Lust’ is a song that does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s one that captures the essence of what makes The Xcerts such a great band and comes across somewhat like a young Bruce Springsteen fronting early Foo Fighters.
Tom Petty is another standpoint of ‘There Is Only You’ – ‘Kids on Drugs’ may have its roots in the grunge scene of Seattle in the early 90s but there’s a more classic aura and confidence oozing through it. It’s a seamless blend of the band’s more spiky moments with their love of classic songwriters. As you’d expect from an album so full of vigour, the final song provides a fitting finish. Veering into Dry the River territory, ‘There Is Only You’ opens with piano and touching lyrics about how ‘nightmares can bring relief’ but after three minutes the guitars come crashing in to provide a powerful and inspiring end. It’s got the essence of their much-loved ‘Hurt With Me’ but with heart and hope replacing the angst and pain.
‘There Is Only You’ is a record that proves some things are worth the wait. For a long time The Xcerts have been one of our favourite bands and it’s a pleasure to have them back. We think they’ll be many more people’s favourite band with the release of this. Spine-tingling, stirring and sensational.