Viva Brother – Famous First Words
Viva Brother – Famous First Words
Imagine it’s 1994, you’re in the UK and you hear a young Liam Gallagher over the radio saying that Oasis will soon be the world’s biggest band. It’s arrogant, sure, especially because you’ve never heard of these guys before. You chuckle to yourself and change the station. Then without warning, Oasis’ first two singles hit the charts and “Live Forever” makes the Top 10. Their debut album, Definitely Maybe, finally arrives, and it goes straight to #1, amassing critical acclaim in the process. Suddenly, Liam’s remark seemed more like a promise than a boast.
Now imagine that scenario, but with none of the singles charting at all, a lawsuit forcing the band’s name to change, and most of the initial buzz turning into critical lashings and public scorn. Enter Viva Brother, a four-piece group from Slough who not only try to conjure the sound of Cool Britannia but its sense of style, right down to the round Lennon glasses and paisley shirts. They’ve made it clear in interviews that after digesting a healthy diet of bands like Blur and the Stone Roses, they were ready to conquer the world, announcing they were the “future of music.” Heady aspirations, especially for simple revivalists. The thing is, saying that they “conjure the sound of Cool Britannia” isn’t entirely accurate because on the group’s debut, Famous First Words, they don’t so much borrow from their Britpop heroes as ape them completely. They even somehow managed to rope in longtime Blur producer Stephen Street, but not even he could save this material, which never rises above the level of “listenable.” Street’s presence may give the impression they are trying to make their own Modern Life Is Rubbish or Parklife, but save for a few Graham Coxon-styled guitar leads and vocal tics, Viva Brother most strongly resemble Oasis. Every track here is an anthem meant to be sung by football crowds, even if the band’s guitars aren’t as humongous as that famed Manchester group.
However, this is Oasis without the swagger, style or even the tunes (though it’s not for their lack of trying). Everything feels forced: singer Lee Newell puts a lot of effort into sounding cool yet lacks Liam Gallagher’s effortless sneering personality, and without that showmanship, the generic chugging guitar in the background falls flat. Lyrically, Famous First Words is perhaps even more embarrassing. Nothing here even touches depth, so to make up for it, you would think they would at least have the good sense to write something that sounds stylish and clever—after all, Noel Gallagher made a career on it. But no, Viva Brother falter again, shoving together cliché after cliché with zero grace. When “New Years Day” is just a mess of stupid non-sequiturs and the hook to “High Street Low Lives” (“This is real/And I’m free/This is what I want to be/’cause life’s too short/and I’m too high/and nobody’s getting out alive!”) is laughably trite, you begin to wonder if they’re actually parodying Oasis’ laddism. Meanwhile, they attempt a Damon Albarn-esque character study on “David.” But when the most interesting thing they have to say about him is that he didn’t mind getting into a car accident, you realize this is no “Colin Zeal” or “Tracy Jacks.” Sure, there are a few fetching melodies and riffs that pop up every once in a while, and Famous First Words may attract a few people who want something to sing along with in a car or wherever, but when this exact sound has been done so much better so many times over, you’re left with one question: What’s the point?