Homegrown heroes are back and in a cool place

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What became of the Likely Lads? Dodgy are back and the melodies are still haunting...

THEY might have stayed out for the summer, but the seasons catch up with us all it seems.

No-one knows that better than Dodgy, the loveable pop trio who crafted three albums of heartfelt melodies and rocking rhythms in the 90s.

‘Lovebirds’, ‘Melodies Haunt You’, ‘Making the Most Of’ ‘Grassman’, ‘In a Room’ - Dodgy were The (peace-loving) Who of the indie scene – a band of the people for the people.

The band notched up their biggest hit with ‘Good Enough’, but it seemed success just couldn’t fulfill the song title – they drifted apart and followed different paths.

The years passed and memories faded, and so it could have stayed, but unsung melodies were still haunting the trio it seems.

Like The Stone Roses, the original line-up – Nigel Clark, Mathew Priest and Andy Miller – met again at a funeral and decided it was time to rekindle the original Dodgy flame.

Fast forward to now and Dodgy have released their long-awaited new album and it’s a beauty – full of acoustic wonder and harmonies to make your heart ache. It’s reverie inducing and magical.

Summer has become autumn in the world of Dodgy it seems, but it’s no less captivating.

The band have returned with an album which should see them ‘do an Elbow’ and reap a richly-deserved harvest which goes back more than two decades.

‘Stand Upright In A Cool Place’ is among their best work – perhaps even their best. A 60s and 70s-tinged work shot through with truth, honesty, hard-won wisdom and experience – not all of it good, not all of it bad.

To be honest, it’s difficult to tell – I was much younger back in their heyday when I followed their every gig ... and so were they. But I am certain this is one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time.

They have come a long way since I fell in love with them with B-side ‘Smashed up in a Flat’ – but haven’t we all?

They might not be staying out for the summer anymore, but autumn seems to suit the trio fine ... or is this really a new spring for old friends?

Track-by-track:

1 ‘Tripped and Fell’ features Nigel, Mathew and Andy at their harmonising best. As acoustic melodies swirl around them, the trio sing: “You can’t stop people from talking, but you can change what they say.”

2 ‘What Became of You’ is ushered in by distorted, ghostly voices. The mantra “be yourself and no-one else” floats among lilting guitar and repeating chords, eventually flowering into a gorgeous chorus: “Why can’t you lie, I don’t want the truth. Ain’t no surprise what became of you.”

3. ‘We Try’ starts with an atmospheric tune reminscent of ‘Jamie and the Magic Torch’ ... before breaking into a sun-drenched fusion of guitars, drums and harmonies. It’s amazing – ‘What Became of the Likely Lads’ crossed with Crosby, Stills and Nash. It’s a 70s-era dose of ‘Dazed and Confused’ goodness with a slide-guitar solo that merges Malvern Hills with Nashville. It’s like a hug of a record – warm, retro and hopeful for the future.

4. ‘Shadows’ features a longing, heartworn vocal – “I can see the shadows hanging over you” – full of regret and memory.

5. ‘Did it Have to be This Way’ is warm, wistful and bittersweet. The reminiscing vocal suggests “it’s a crying shame, never be the same”. Then the drums kick in, the beat picks up and Nigel insists: “I’ve got to learn to deal with this. How can I grow up if I can’t walk alone? Where in God’s name did I go wrong?”

6. ‘Waiting for the Sun’ features electric guitar, keyboard and the hope that “dark days will soon be gone, can’t hold on to yesterday, what’s already been and gone”.

7. ‘Raggedstone Hill’ features the ambient noises of birds and creaking wood, a distant hammering. It’s an atmospheric tale of another world spun from Nigel – ghostly and haunting. Then Andy and Mathew kick in and it opens up with an explosion of guitar and drums.

8. ‘Only a Heartbeat’ recalls ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ by The Beatles. It’s another gorgeous ode to love and home.

9. ‘Find a Place’ shines with acoustic beauty, subtle harmonies and a distant yearning “to find a place I can cross and reach the other side”. It has a whiff of Simon and Garfunkel and it’s ace.

10. ‘Back of You’ starts with a melody laid down by a xylophone ... which the band seize with relish. The song fuses politics and poetry: “You’re stealing from the people, for this you want to be thanked. HMS Great Britain is stuck on the banks.”

11. ‘Happy Ending’ fittingly features the trio harmonising over simple chords, before it opens out into a song of hope and cautious optimism. The future’s unclear, but there’s reason to believe.

Alan Muir

(Dodgy Kid since 1993)