Oochya!, the title of the forthcoming twelfth studio album by legendary Welsh alt rock fixture Stereophonics, does not really amount to much, according to the quartet’s frontman Kelly Jones. Yet unbeknownst to him at the time of naming the 15-track project due out in March next year, it also just so happens to coincide with an Urban Dictionary definition of the ASMR-esque onomatopoeia of “the sensation of being snapped on the buttocks by a towel“—clearly a discovery not quite bothersome enough for Jones to take the title of the first Phonics studio LP in three years back to the drawing board. On second thought, the inadvertent semantic spanking alignment might in fact fit the underlying ethos currently being dispensed by the band’s camp like a glove, for it’s touting how “people who’ve heard ‘Oochya!’ say it sounds like a ‘Best Of’ album, just of songs you’ve never heard before”.
What’s particularly interesting about this upcoming collection of songs is that it began as a curatorial embryo for a, well, collection of songs. As a matter of fact, the 1992-formed post brit-pop sensation was initially looking to sculpt a tribute compilation including unreleased B-sides and rarities to celebrate their 25th anniversary as a band since issuing their first debut single in the mid Nineties. However, Kelly and co. quickly realized that building a whole new album of original material around a core batch of long-lost drafts sounded like a more compelling plan instead. Next thing they knew, the creative impetus unearthed from those earlier sessions gestated as many as fifteen gritty new cuts, which according to the British outfit’s key songwriter are “90 per cent uptempo […]. [Oochya!] is like a mixtape, with a lot of different styles on there.”
Such a high-octane and oomph-laden stylistic trajectory turn—conveyed by a raft of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sonics, if one’s to go by the aforementioned mixtape comparison—might not come as a gargantuan back-to-basics surprise, considering the mostly acoustic and unplugged detouring affairs dished out as part of the Stereophonics canon as of late: 2019’s enchanting and delicate full-band Kind LP, as well as Jones’ live solo album Don’t Let The Devil Take Another Day, scoring the sensational accompanying documentary of the same name the following year. Come to think of it from a bird’s eye view, with the marginal exception of their hit or miss 2017 effort Scream Above the Sounds, one could argue that it’s been over eleven years since the Cwmaman-natives last churned out an outright bona fide rock & roll, guitar-first bundle, as they released the spotless, catchy, and cohesive uppercut of Keep Calm and Carry On at the turn of this millennium’s first decade (2009).
When Oochya!’s rowdy and tongue-in-cheek lead single and album opener “Hanging On Your Hinges” hit the interweb airwaves in early September, it took less than a minute into the record for the world to fathom that old proto-garage, sleazy, and swaggerish Phonics were back in the saddle. “You got love on your side / But you think it’s gone away / You got the devil on your back / And who’s the sinner? Who’s the saint?” croons Jones in its opening chorus, atop of sampled percussive slaps as well as a set of dried out and deep fried guitar riffs that would instantly turn on both motorcycles and young studs alike. The whole near-three-minute of runtime is made of the type of badassery one would expect Danzig coasting on top of, preferably tied into late 2010s Queens of the Stone Age tapes—yet it’s Stereophonics and it progresses into an even more revelatory and mischievous curtailing refrain: “You got time on your side / But you think it’s all a race / You got me hanging on your hinges / Slamming doors right in your face“.
If “Hanging On Your Hinges” brought the riffs, the black leather vibing, and all of the girls, then Oochya!’s second teaser in anticipation to the full length project out on 4th March next year, “Do Ya Feel My Love?“, took care of songwriting prowess and emotional captivation. Without compromising on wall of sound density or even immediate melodic attack, the tune exhumes a certain deal of Pull the Pin leanings and sensibilities—distilling some of the more quality elements off the superb, raw, and sensual 2007 Stereophonics outing, one that has proved to have aged best in their whole discography no less. “Do Ya Feel My Love?” comes armed with a ripe and robust writing at the core of its track, introspectively yet charismatically ridden by Jones on lead vocals and guitar, co-founding member Richard Jones on bass, Adam Zindani on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, as well as newest addition Jamie Morrison behind the drums.
Lyrically, the musical work tastefully dabbles in the fleeting realization that one’s cornerstones in life are only as meaningful as one is willing to stoically hang on to them, as well as the process of coming to terms with it: “The time that we shared was the time that we cared / But some things change, nothing stays the same / So now, what now? / You left me falling down and walked away / But that’s okay“. Musically, aside from a fairly straightforward and watertight backbone, the variation on the second chorus’ outro kicking in at 2:30 into the record is of highest artistic features, with the Zindani-led BVs pristinely harmonizing in contrast to the angular and filthy electric guitar laments underneath them—seamlessly and compellingly shepherding the song into its third and final refrain amidst gelid tensions and climactic releases.
So far so good—it’s two for two from the Phonics. Fans of the the Welsh stalwarts can keep calm and carry on with their high anticipation of Oochya!. It’s safe to say they can hang onto their kind and encouraging hinges for the time being, for these two sonic teasers are proof that they can still feel their love. This, at the very least, will get them all through until Kelly, Richard, Adam, and Jamie eventually pull the pin on the whole project in early March next year.
I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.
2022, Ignition Records