The View - Bread & Circuses

You’ll only find fleeting glimpses of the band’s former glory.

Label: Columbia

Rating: 5

Pity the situation The View find themselves in as they ease their way into 2011. Back in 2007, the Dundee boys found themselves in an enviable position for indie bands with their eye on the prize - they lead charmed lives, with their debut album ‘Hats Off To The Buskers’ sitting pretty at the top of the charts, three Top 20 hits under their belts and a reputation as a lightning hot live band. They could be forgiven for imagining they’d arrived and that nothing could ever topple them from their hallowed position of top of the indie boy class of ’07. Fast forward to the cold, grey light of 2011 however and it’s all an undoubtedly bleaker picture. They haven’t dented the charts in any significant form since those early days, and last year’s album (the grimly titled ‘Which Bitch?’) was at the top of precisely no one’s end of year favourites list. In other words, the sheer weight of expectation for this third album couldn’t be greater unless it was encased in several layers of lead and coated in extra thick concrete.

It’s a well known fact of human nature that most of us are keen to back the underdog. You genuinely want to be able to say the the former indie golden boys who fell from grace have now returned with a total blinder - but the truth is you’ll only find fleeting glimpses of the band’s former glory in ‘Bread & Circuses’. Opener ‘Grace’ is one of these finer moments, with a swirling guitar refrain punctuated with excitable handclaps and tasty harmonies. But its hint of promise isn’t really ever picked up on to any great effect. ‘Underneath The Lights’ has a touch of a pub singalong feel about it, the sort of tune you might imagine a group of chirpy lads who’ve had perhaps one too many shandies singing along to whilst spilling on to the streets at closing time. It’s a blatant big pop knees-up - in other words, a valiant attempt at writing another shiny Top 10 hit. Trouble is, it falls slightly short of the mark, never quite as fresh and sparkly as their initial handful of whopping great bona fide pop hits.

Some moments just don’t seem to gel at all like the rinky dink rhythm of ‘Girl’ pushing the band just the wrong side of twee (you can almost imagine a tuba in the background booming ‘oom pa pa’ quite merrily, which is surely not a good sign unless you’re a brass band fanatic), with uninspired lyrics repeated ad nauseam (‘Don’t let the girl come in / She’ll put you in a spin / Take everything / Just don’t let her in’). The grand finale of ‘The Best Lasts Forever’ simply tries too hard, with grandiose piano, strings, and lots of people shouting backing vocals, like an idea Oasis might have kicked around for a B-Side but ultimately dismissed. Just when you’re left feeling slightly underwhelmed, your ears are baffled by a hidden track about witches that is just plain weird and unnecessary, featuring kazoos and all sorts of other nonsense going on. It probably made a lot of sense to the band at the time but fails spectacularly to translate on any level.

Puzzling novelty hidden tracks aside, the main problem with ‘Bread & Circuses’ is that there’s no real standout track, or anything to make you reach for the repeat button. It all bobbles along quite breezily, and drifts past fairly easily on the ear. But that’s exactly the problem - there’s nothing to grab you, smack you around the chops and say ‘how have you possibly managed to live this long without me?’. It’s not the comeback they were probably hoping for, but neither is it an unmitigated disaster for The View - instead, it seems they’re stuck in a musical no man’s land, with this record neither progressing them further nor leading them off in any new thrilling direction. Ultimately, they find themselves treading water, when they probably thought they’d be home and dry.