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Shed Seven - A Matter of Time (Cooking Vinyl)

20 January 2024

Taking their time since LP five in 2017, Britpop stalwarts Shed Seven have just released their sixth full-length. Over the years the indie rock popsters have fiercely enjoyed playing live tracks from their full catalog, but felt an urge to feed their ravenous fans with more of their melodic, guitar-driven signature sound.

For American audiences, Shed Seven may not be familiar. Back in the early 90s when Britpop was emerging out of the wreckage of Thatcherism, Shed Seven wasn’t nearly as well-known as Oasis, Blur, and Pulp. Originally formed in York in 1990, they eventually signed to Polydor, releasing their first LP, ” Change Giver” in 1994. Catchy singles such as “Speakeasy” quickly established the band in the UK. Major label backing helped, as did single mix support from Chris Sheldon, a well-respected producer known for his shimmering, powerful sonic work on classic records from that period (late 80s, early 90s) such as Big Country and The House of Love.

Sheldon went on to produce the second Shed Seven LP, “A Maximum High” (Polydor, 1996). For the American audience, a monster tune (and set staple) like “Bully Boy” sounds like a revved up Gin Blossoms with a snarly dose of ego. The album hit on all cylinders for the band and it breached the top 10 in the UK.

I first stumbled on Shed Seven when I heard “Chasing Rainbows” on the ”Crush” (PolyGram, 1997) 2CD Britpop sampler chock-a-block with other essential bands of the time including Lush, Suede, Dodgy, Gene, Boo Radleys, and of course Pulp and Oasis. Shed’s “…Rainbows” would appear on LP number three, “Let It Ride” (Polydor, 1998), also a top 10 UK album.

Into the new millennium, the band signed a fresh record deal and released their fourth full-length, “Truth Be Told” (Artful, 2001). But with little label or radio support, the record didn’t do nearly as well as prior efforts and the frustrated band retreated to the shadows. Over the next 16 years, the band periodically released a single, EP, or hits compilation while happily playing live and focusing on other music projects.

LP number five, “Instant Pleasures” (Infectious Music, 2017) had the expert ear of Martin Glover (aka Youth) at the production levers, and includes standout gems like “Nothing to Live Down”, both of which helped to catapult the band once again into the UK top 10 album charts.

Despite such a strong studio return that clearly resonated with fans, since then touring and more live records have filled the gap until now. The new sixth record, ”A Matter of Time”_ (Cooking Vinyl) also has Youth producing, and the band has seen its first number one UK album in the charts.

So let’s dive in:

“Let’s Go” kicks off, fueled with choppy guitar chords. Rick Witter’s vocals are playful, powerful, and as identifiable as ever in the Shed Seven sound.

“Kissing California” with its jangly guitars and harmonies reminds of the Boo Radleys, who similarly have resurged in recent years after their initial 90s Britpop heyday.

“Talk of the Town” begins with a slight nod to The Who’s “Pinball Wizard”, but then jumps into familiar Shed territory. Big guitars and chanted BVs build up during the chorus. This band is exceptionally skilled at creating hooks and vocal interplay that irresistibly invites air guitars and sing-a-longs.

“Real Love” begins with a blistering drum and bass beat and as the guitars and vocals get layered on top, it quickly becomes another standout track. On the softer side, “Starlings” is a beauty that complements the harder tracks. Symphonic elements swirl around, adding a touch of drama. It’s hard to pull off without getting too sickly sweet, but Starlings does just that.

The album veers sonically in a few pleasant directions, buoyed by guest collaborations. Dance-infused, electronic track “In Ecstasy” features Rowetta, Manchester’s own who is well-known for her work with Happy Mondays. “Tripping With You” is a lovely, waltzy, folk tune featuring Sheffield’s Laura McClure (Reverend and The Makers). The album’s closer, “Throwaways”, features Pete Doherty (Libertines, Babyshambles). Strings once again lift the music, as vocal harmonies build. Shed Seven deftly delivers another set list staple that invites a club-filled sing-a-long.