Twenty years ago, the Welsh rock band Stereophonics released their debut album Word Gets Around to praise and good sales in the UK. Since then, they’ve experienced a few lineup changes, made several world tours, and released nine additional albums–six of which hit number one on the UK charts. While they haven’t quite replicated this level of success in America, they still have a decent-sized following in the United States. All and all, they’ve enjoyed a good level of success over the course of their twenty-plus years as a band. Rather than create another compilation album to celebrate their twentieth anniversary (their first being the successful Decade in the Sun), the band decided to release their tenth album to commemorate the occasion: Scream Above the Sounds.
Scream Above the Sounds is an album about experience and not letting fear win, both on large and small scales. The album opens with “Caught by the Wind,” a song that was inspired by the terrorist attacks on Paris in 2015. The anthemic track is about not missing out because you’re scared that something is going to happen–after all, anything could happen at any time. The bright track edges a little close to inspirational clichės, but has an important message regardless.
In addition to fear, the album warns listeners not to let all of the noise and nonsense that we deal with on a day-to-day basis distract us from participating in life around us. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Jones says,
There is a lot of intrusion, and young people have to deal with this stuff every day. We all do. And I think people sometimes we forget to celebrate the small things – lying on a roof and looking up at the sky, or whatever it might be. I try to paint pictures that make people realize there’s more to life than the constant intrusion we’re living through, really.
The song that really exemplifies this idea is “All in One Night,” a narrative song that gives Scream Above the Sounds its name. This smooth, melodic track provides a narrative in which two people meet one night and end up sharing an experience that changes the course of both of their lives.
Several other songs create snapshots of other experiences to focus on. The haunting “What’s All the Fuss About?” is a detailed account of feelings and observations one experiences during an emotional reunion, while the classic rock-inspired “Cryin’ in Your Beer” pokes fun at a not-so-great night at a carnival. These songs make another important point: these experiences don’t last forever–good or bad, they all come to an end eventually.
For Jones, Scream Above the Sounds is also a retrospective on life, taking a look at times both before and after he was famous. “Before Anyone Knew Our Name” is a particularly personal song for him, as it serves as a tribute to their friend and former drummer Stuart Cable, who passed away seven years ago. “I don’t know where that song came from – one day it just came out that way and it was literally pages and pages of words and I just sat down at the piano and they unraveled…Almost one of those ones where you’re not sure you want to put it on the album,” Jones explained to Rolling Stone. The song explores the sense of possibility they all had when they were first starting out and had the whole world in front of them. The stripped-down guitar ballad “Boy on a Bike” reflects on how free Jones used to feel flying through the streets on his bike to show that growing up has made him more cautious over the years–maybe too cautious. Both of these tracks make it seem as if Jones is watching his past self as a Christmas Carol-style observer.
Throughout the album, Stereophonics touch on the sounds they’re known for; you can hear their classic rock-style guitar strengths in “Chances Are” and the New Wave touches on the love song “Taken a Tumble.” However, there’s also a bit of experimentation happening on this album as well. Songs like the haunting “What’s All the Fuss About?” and the action-packed “Geronimo” use a big brass sound, introducing some new instrumentation into their repertoire. Album closer “Elevators” uses country guitar and keys to create an unexpected end to the album.
Scream Above the Sounds has a little bit for everyone, something that means individual songs don’t necessarily stand out. Overall the listening experience is great, but it might be difficult to pick a favorite track from this surprisingly short album. Regardless, Scream Above the Sounds is a solid addition to the Stereophonics discography and a worthy celebration of their twenty-plus years together as a band.