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Sunday, June 12, 2005




When the Stereophonics became the first band signed to Richard Branson's second label V2, the U.K. rock press greeted the Welsh power trio with comparisons to Manic Street Preachers. However, as the group released one hit single after another during the late 1990s, most comparisons fell by the wayside. Singer-guitarist Kelly Jones, whose appeal as a hoarse vocalist wasn't much different from Rod Stewart's, demonstrated a facility for big rock gestures that sounded great in a car.

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Unfortunately, he was also fond of attention-grabbing gimmicks and African-American forms that he couldn't really handle. As a result, The Stereophonics gradually lost touch with their hard-rock roots. The only thing that kept them interesting were their song titles. (My favorite is "Half the Lies You Tell Ain't True.")

The departure of original drummer Stuart Cable last year seems to have forced the group to reassess its priorities. On their new album, "Language. Sex. Violence. Other?," they've stripped their sound and abandoned the ballads and R&B that someone told them they had to include if they were going to be taken seriously. Every song starts hard and gets harder, and Jones's pop gifts are utilized for something worth his while rather than for something that simply sounds ambitious. It's anthem rock at its best and should sound great in concert. But there are a lot of people who already know this, and they've already bought their tickets.

June 14, 7 p.m., IMP Hall, Osaka; June 15, 7 p.m., Nagoya Club Quattro; June 17, 7 p.m., Shibuya O-East, Tokyo; June 18, 6 p.m., Shibuya O-East (advance tickets sold out); June 19, 6 p.m., Ebisu Liquid Room, Tokyo. 6,300 yen. For more information, call Creativeman at (03) 5466-0777.

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