Minty Fresh Nostalgia

The big question now, is what will the Stereophonics do for an encore?

There's a mosh pit full of sweaty, springing bodies wearing

Stereophonics T-shirts. There's beer fog and dry ice in the smoky air.

There's flashing white and red lighting. And they've even added some

music. Wait a minute ... All this, on a CD?

It's not a live album, but Performance and Cocktails

(emphasis on "performance") could be the setlist to the Stereophonics'

dream gig. As the album opens with unplugged guitar noises and cartoon

sound effects, you can almost see singer Kelly Jones as he grabs the

mic and kicks off with the high-energy, trad-rock "Roll Up and Shine" (RealAudio excerpt).

The "setlist" continues with a smattering of singles ("The Bartender

and the Thief," "Just Looking"), some subdued, meaning-of-life ballads

("Hurry Up and Wait" [RealAudio excerpt]) and of course, a hefty dollop of fast-paced,

frantic rock for the moshers. The LP throbs with energy — from

Jones' half-shouted lyrics to Stuart Cable's enthusiastic background

percussion on the almost syncopated "I Wouldn't Believe Your Radio" (RealAudio excerpt).

Performance and Cocktails is the long-awaited follow-up to

Word Gets Around (1997). It reeks of Brit-pop guitar-bashing

nostalgia, but stays minty fresh, with clever, singable songs,

largely due to Jones' vocals — husky and tuneful, alternately

subdued and over-the-top. The end product is a cross between

Catatonia's Cerys Matthews and Rod Stewart. The Stereos are Welsh,

with a vengeance.

Performance and Cocktails is the social equivalent of

Radiohead's OK Computer. Without the cyber-angst, the

Stereophonics are clucking the What's-become-of-our-society? fret.

"Just Looking" rants a little about consumerism ("I'm just looking,

I'm not buying"), "She Takes Her Clothes Off" is a downbeat account

of a carnival queen manqué and her suicide — and other

important stuff. The LP's not a political treatise, a la the

Manic Street Preachers, though.

By track 13, the punters are stamping on the floor, begging for more.

The big question now, is what will the Stereophonics do for an encore?