There are a great deal of things Her Majesty’s great land has given us over the course of the country’s long history. Once the great British Empire, and known at times for its brash occupation of distance lands, the United Kingdom has been home to some of the greatest musical entities we have encountered over the past few decades. From The Smiths to the Stone Roses, from the Who to the Clash, the incarnations of this form of expression is as limitless as those who craft it. And while the majority of what we have come to consider as these cornerstones of music often speak of artistic revolutions (inevitably soaked with praise from the media and hailed as the “saviors/innovators of [insert genre in need of saving/innovating]”), one recent act is in no danger of being hailed as “saviors;” at least not directly. Perhaps the act in question aren’t quite of the level of praise their more luminous predecessors are often associated with. Yet what is most striking about their progress is not whether they will or will not revolutionize their genre; but that they reinforce the idea that perhaps revolutions aren’t necessary all the time.
Taking parts of The Clash, The Jam, and some good fashioned pop sensibilities (but surprisingly, not so much Morrissey), The Ordinary Boys could very well have released this year’s bona fide rock album. Part energy, part enthusiasm, bags of class and little to no intentions of being the next in line to carry of flag of revolution; one can find a great deal to like about Over the Counter Culture. With traces of Weller, Strummer, and Townshend clearly visible in primary vocalist Preston (he’s got the mono-name thing going on), The Ordinary Boys clearly have the knack for being as musically decisive as these artists. From the opening salvo of the guitar soaked, trumpet powered (yes, trumpets! And not in the gangly, ska sort of way either) opening title track, their irresistible nature is almost immediate. And it’s not that their sound is remarkably innovative (perhaps that is the point), but that they have molded from well-proven qualities a formula of surprising potency.
The album as a whole is strong from beginning to end. Tracks like “Week In and Week Out” and “Talk Talk Talk” do more than just reminisce about past greatness, but do their part to reinforce the thought that something brought to life many years ago still has a viable place in today’s constant search for upheaval. The release’s most able outing, “Seaside,” is a delicate mix of subtle pop melodies, Brit-rock, and touch of glamour reserved for getting away from the erosive nature of modern life. As they so eloquently state; “The seaside needs us more than ever.” And whether is contemplating the sad state of affairs of the business, or being reflective about how seemingly distant we have all become, much of the album delves into matters that ultimately surround us as a whole without picking one distinct undertone. While the nature of their subjects is one regularly visited, it is rare to find them tackled with the acerbic wit, charm, and cheeky disposition seen here.
The most interesting statement in Over the Counter Culture could very well be words sung in “The List Goes On;” a Love is Dead-era sounding Mr. T Experience effort that, when not commenting on music critics and the sad state of radio, perceptively states; “Originality is so passé.” The band’s very principles delicately balance on this one rather brilliant statement- there are no delusions of great originality here as their influences are as clear as daylight; yet it does little to take away from the album’s appeal. Listening to the Ordinary Boys isn’t about discovering something new, it’s about rediscovering something you’ve likely heard before done with a great deal of competence. And while they may not reach as high as the summits achieved by some of the UK’s greats, they do share a certain quality that many have come to associate with these timeless artists- because in the end, The Ordinary Boys understand that sometimes, its all just rock n’ roll.