STANDS - HorseFabulous (The Echo Label)

The Stands debut album was not bad, owing perhaps a little too much of a debt to The Byrds, but just about making up for it with the cracking ‘The Way She Does’ rounding off the set. For this one mainman Howie Payne has forsaken The Byrds for The Beatles, and so we have a more pop orientated album. ‘Turn The World Around’ sets out their stall from the off, with harmony vocals on the chorus, and a horn section that screams ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’. ‘Soon Come’ would be the George Harrison song, having some jerky riffs on the guitar, and a Lennon vocal straight from ‘Wall And Bridges’. So far you might be forgiven for thinking that this album is a sub Rutles spoof, but the songs themselves are excellent, and soon rise above their influences. ‘Just Enough Love’ is a loping country tune, with honky tonk piano and sax bringing just the right goodtime feel to it. Just as you are getting used to the joyous pop and country ballads, Payne surprises up with the evocative instrumental ‘Mountains Blue And The World Through My Window’, a tune that brings to mind 60’s spy films, and which would have been perfect for a thriller theme tune. ‘Nearer Than Green’ is an unusual song, in that it starts off as a heavily strummed ballad, drifts off into a harmony vocal middle eight, and then comes back as a heavy rocker, complete with great fuzz guitar solo and spacey backing vocals - and it really works, making it one of highlights on here. ‘Do It Like You Like’ has another Beatles-drenched melody, but is still a cracking song, and ‘You Said’ rounds off the album with a cross between Oasis and The La’s at their most poignant. On first hearing I must admit that it sounded a little bland, but the more I listened to it the more the intricacies of the songs emerged, and now I feel that the whole album holds together extremely well. Howie Payne has obviously taken on board the criticisms of his last album and moved the band into a totally new direction, and while it may well be as retro as hell, it certainly works for me.