Sunday, Oct. 10, 2004
It may be that there really are no frontiers left in pop any more; that we are doomed to recycle the past forever. On the title cut of "Over the Counter Culture," the debut album from Brighton's The Ordinary Boys, lead vocalist Preston brays, "Let's see, what can we be now/That hasn't been done before?" The question is meant to sound derisive -- Preston thinks the obsession with seeming different is just another fad -- but it's also a challenge. "Shut your eyes and look inside," is his answer.
Such sentiments let the band off the hook, since The Ordinary Boys, with their mod haircuts and slashing, trebly guitar sound, are direct descendants of The Jam, who were direct descendants of The Who. Like their forebears, the Boys have a knack for sophisticated arrangements and funny chord changes, and their witty social commentary falls somewhere between Paul Weller's obviousness and Damon Albarn's cynicism. What sets them apart is their sincerity -- they really do look inside -- and Preston's likable chumminess. Pump up the volume and he sounds like your pal, yelling his most personal thoughts in your ear, but he's not one of those depressive singer-songwriters who ask their audience for shoulders to cry on. "I won't be brooding in my bedroom," he insists on the relatively low-key charmer, "Just a Song," daring you to find evidence to the contrary. They may be ordinary, but unlike most guitar bands they're unusually upbeat. Happy is the new intense.
The Ordinary Boys: Nov. 4, 7 p.m., Nagoya Club Quattro (052) 264-8211; Nov. 5, 7 p.m., Shinsaibashi Club Quattro, Osaka (06) 6281-8181; Nov. 7, 6 p.m., Kyoto Club Metro (075) 752-4765; Nov. 8, 7 p.m., Harajuku Astro Hall, Tokyo (03) 3402-3089; Nov. 9 & 10, Shibuya O-East, Tokyo (03) 5466-0777. Tickets 5,500 yen in advance for all shows.