CD Review of So This Is Great Britain? by The Holloways

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So This Is Great Britain?
starstarstarno starno star Label: TVT
Released: 2007
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Insidious (in-sid-ee-uhs) –adjective. Intended to entrap or beguile: an insidious plan.

As you can see, the inherent nature of the word ‘insidious’ is not pleasant. It’s a dark little word, suggesting deceit or foul play. Unless you’re a con artist, you would take no pleasure in someone considering anything you’ve done to be insidious. You certainly don’t want the word showing up in a review of your work if you’re, say, in a pop band, and your work inspired someone to write the following:

The Holloways, a four-piece guitar pop band from London led by motor-mouthed singers Alfie Jackson and Rob Skipper, write songs that are insidiously catchy.

Sometimes, it simply must be said.

One listen to their song “Generator,” the first US single from their album So This Is Great Britain?, is enough for the song to burrow a hole deep into your memory and never, ever come out. It doesn’t just have a hook: it has the musical equivalent to one of those super-powered magnets that can pull someone across an empty warehouse by the fillings in their teeth. The problem with songs of such an unforgettable nature is that they inadvertently make the band’s other material look inferior by comparison. As an added “bonus,” something insidiously catchy can rapidly become severely irritating if overplayed, and before you know it, ta daaaa, you’re the Proclaimers.

It is unclear at this point if the Holloways are headed for such a dubious distinction, but stranger things have happened in music’s kangaroo court. To be fair, the first half of So This Is Great Britain? is actually damned good. Following “Generator” are two more killer singles, “Dancefloor” and “Two Left Feet.” While the former is an amusing tale of a guy abandoning his friends at a club for a girl (only to wind up broke and alone), it is Skipper’s fiddle playing on the latter song that could prove to be the band’s salvation. Let’s be honest here: “Generator” is cute and all, but the overly chatty aspect of the band’s vocals wears out its welcome before too long. By the time the Big Ballad hits – the five-minute “Most Lonely Face,” which is a good two minutes longer than every other song on the album – it is clear that the band has used up its best ideas on the album’s front half. But that fiddle in “Two Left Feet” opens up the band to a whole mess of possibilities when time comes to make another record, depending on whether their older brothers were bigger fans of the Wonder Stuff or the Pogues.

The band’s boundless enthusiasm is difficult to resist, but the band would be smart not to try to get by on charm alone. So This Is Great Britain? has moments of greatness, but by the time the three bonus tracks are over, it feels like one of those bloated compilations from some ‘80s band long past its prime, where the band’s handful of hits are surrounded by B-sides and assorted filler. You’ve given us half of a great record, mates: next time around, let’s see if you can give us two halves.

~David Medsker