Who here doesn't have at least a tiny crush on England? The royal scandals, the centuries-long feuds, the stone castles and the moors and the polite admonitions to "mind the gap." Admit it: The first time you pulled a new $20 bill from the ATM, with its pinkish hues and tiny confetti-cascade of 20s, you thought, "Oo, it looks so British!" (It doesn't, but never mind that). You've called the bathroom "the loo" -- oh yes you have too -- and you've thought, at least once, that someone's accent was "so cute." It's time to branch out, friend. Transfer that Anglophilic fervor to Wales. Fabulous Wales! The beautiful, consonant-crazy language, the rarebit, the gorgeous coast and the Stereophonics.
Manic Street Preachers and, of course, Tom "It's Not Unusual" Jones may be better-known Welsh exports, but the Stereophonics bring the crunchy rock (and a little political soapboxin') in a big way. The boys (guitarist and lead singer Kelly Jones, bassist Richard Jones and drummer Stuart Cable) ain't hard on the eyes, either, a fact reiterated by this critic's Scottish roommate every time the band's first big single, "Local Boy in the Photograph," came on the radio: "Oh. My. God. Ster. Eo. Phonics."
The music is raucous and catchy, but don't be fooled -- Kelly Jones has a knack for writing lyrics that are as intelligent as they are hook-worthy. This is great blue-collar rock & roll infused with strange stream-of-consciousness poetry, and the combination is fun and fascinating. Be sure not to miss the Stereophonics when they open for pretty-boy popster Howie Day at Mississippi Nights. And if you fall hard for this Welsh trio, don't worry; they won't stay away for long -- the boys'll be back in St. Louis in May to open for David Bowie. It's a Welsh invasion! Oh. My.