hat is “real music”? We are told constantly that the likes of the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, N*S*Y*N*C etc. are not “real music” because they do not play their own instruments, write their own music, or sing live. For these reasons we are told we should dislike them. Yet here are Toploader, a band who fill all the above-mentioned criteria for being “real” and, yet, they are patently one hundred times worse than any of the three aforementioned bands. Their perception as “real” is definitely exasperating, the man who sips at his real ale in a riverside pub with the Daily Mail on his lap will champion this as a triumph against the dark forces of pop when he really could not be more misguided. Let us not forget that Toploader were only too happy to sell-out when Sainsburys offered them money for the dirge that was “Dancin’ in the Moonlight” to soundtrack the adverts featuring the equally odious Jamie Oliver.
It is their constant desire to appeal to the “bloke” culture that makes this record so dispiriting to listen to. Lyrically, they struggle to veil chauvinism on songs like “Lady let me shine”. Their use of the word “Lady” in such a way is irritating enough but lines like “Lady, I don’t know where you’ve been/Lord only knows what you’ve seen” are as cringe inducing as any David Brent introduction speech, and far less amusing.
The manner in which these embarrassing lyrics are delivered does not do Toploader any favours. On the opening track, Joe Washbourn tells us he has had the time of his life. This is strange, coming from a man who sounds like he has just been eating iron filings. His cheese grating voice is backed up by sub-“Life” period Simply Red (yes, really that bad) blues “riffs”. In short, this is a record that really makes silence seem golden.
If there was ever a movement to criminalize guitars, Magic Hotel could be their soundtrack. Lacklustre follows nondescript follows mediocre for an excruciating 42 minutes. Admittedly, Toploader do not wallow in the way that Starsailor and Haven do, but they share in common their most grievous crime: failing to come up with anything resembling quality.
The most painful aspect of this whole album is the sense of superiority that emanates from it. There is a definite impression that they think they have produced something really special. It is a damning indictment on the record buying public that anyone could be fooled into agreement. That said, maybe they do have a right to be smug, they are making plenty of money out of some of the most bland and personality free music I have heard for years. There really is no justice.
Reviewed by: Jon Monks
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01