The View ‘Bread and Circuses’ – Review

20 Mar

The View, through no real fault of their own, have gone from being one of the most popular bands in Britain to being virtually ignored, and all in the space of a couple of years. Ok, it was kind of their fault, their second album had a notorious lack of tunes and The View built their career on tunes. ‘Same Jeans’, ‘Superstar Tradesmen’, ‘Wasted Little Djs’ etc – their debut was stuffed with them, and that’s pretty much all it had going for it. Sonically it was tired and over produced, musically and lyrically it was clichéd; basically The View were The Libertines without the story or the storytelling ability. Once you took away the tunes you were left with very little indeed –  you were left with ‘Witch Bitch’ essentially, their second album (doesn’t that title tell you everything you need to know?).

Those two albums felt like conjoined twins; they were released pretty close together, their sound was identical, the album art was very similar. Basically they were the same album, it just so happened that one had hits and the other didn’t (oh and the younger twin was high as a kite). It was kind of obvious then that they had to a) expand their sound, b) get rid of their producer and c) ditch the drugs. The result of this  is ‘Bread and Circuses’. Whilst it may not be a twin of those first two albums, its definatley the younger, more ambitious, better dressed brother. You can see the resemblance, and he has the same bad habits, but his charm and politeness does a good job of disguising this fact. ‘Bread and Circuses’ has learned from his brothers mistakes.

And yet this album is doomed for failure. However good ‘Bread and Circuses’ is, (and it is pretty good) I can’t see The View ever being as big as they once were. This is mainly because their’s is a very old-fashioned brand of rock n roll that never really dates but is never exactly in fashion either. It just so happened that when they released their debut, this type of old-fashioned indie rock was having unprecedented dominance in the charts; now the gen public have moved on but The View haven’t.

It’s a bit of a shame because they sound desperate to have another hit, every single song strives for mainstream success and, fairplay to them, they come close an awful lot without ever quite getting there. ‘Life’ is just a bit too unfocused and sloppy but it has a classic melody, ‘Sunday’ has a fantastically catchy verse but fails with the chorus and ‘Grace’ takes just a bit too long to get to the point. They aim for pop perfection but as the album progresses it becomes increasingly clear that their charm is in the way they fall just short of perfection. It’s the the stains in their songs, the little flaws and oddities that make them what they are. This is a point that their producer, Flood (the most overrated producer in music history whose name isn’t Stephen Street), completely misses. He drowns the songs in reverb, strings, harmonies, guitar upon guitar upon guitar etc – it’s as if we’re back in 1997! It reminds me of ‘Be Here Now’ in the way he piles layers upon layers onto songs which should have been treated with simplicity.

Maybe The View wanted this soundscape, it’s certainly a bit of a contrast with the last album and it does smack of (misguided) ambition. Ignoring the sonics though and concentrating on the songs, this is a very solid and consistent album. The first nine songs are all of a very high quality, an for the first half hour it doesn’t let down once. As is the Britpop tradition the songs do go on a bit too long though and this is basically because the choruses are repeated until you want to use them as mallets to whack around the band’s faces. As is usually the way when the songs are overlong, the album itself is too long as well –  thirteen songs that could have been, SHOULD have been, slimmed down to a more manageable ten.

I’ve said it a lot but if a band have the ability to write good songs then their sins can be forgiven; The View are natural songwriters and that ability shines on ‘Bread and Circuses’ even if it is a bombastic, over produced, and messy record. It wont be the crossover success they want it to be and until they write another song as brilliant as ‘Same Jeans’ then a crossover just isn’t going to happen; there are lots of great songs on here but nothing classic. Overall ‘Bread and Circuses’ is their most consistent and listenable album yet and it shows that I was wrong for writing The View off, there is life in them yet.



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