By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Who here doesn't have at least a tiny crush on England? The royal scandals, the centuries-long feuds, the stone castles and the moors and the polite admonitions to "mind the gap." Admit it: The first time you pulled a new $20 bill from the ATM, with its pinkish hues and tiny confetti-cascade of 20s, you thought, "Oo, it looks so British!" (It doesn't, but never mind that). You've called the bathroom "the loo" -- oh yes you have too -- and you've thought, at least once, that someone's accent was "so cute." It's time to branch out, friend. Transfer that Anglophilic fervor to Wales. Fabulous Wales! The beautiful, consonant-crazy language, the rarebit, the gorgeous coast and the Stereophonics.
Manic Street Preachers and, of course, Tom "It's Not Unusual" Jones may be better-known Welsh exports, but the Stereophonics bring the crunchy rock (and a little political soapboxin') in a big way. The boys (guitarist and lead singer Kelly Jones, bassist Richard Jones and drummer Stuart Cable) ain't hard on the eyes, either, a fact reiterated by this critic's Scottish roommate every time the band's first big single, "Local Boy in the Photograph," came on the radio: "Oh. My. God. Ster. Eo. Phonics."
The music is raucous and catchy, but don't be fooled -- Kelly Jones has a knack for writing lyrics that are as intelligent as they are hook-worthy. This is great blue-collar rock & roll infused with strange stream-of-consciousness poetry, and the combination is fun and fascinating. Be sure not to miss the Stereophonics when they open for pretty-boy popster Howie Day at Mississippi Nights. And if you fall hard for this Welsh trio, don't worry; they won't stay away for long -- the boys'll be back in St. Louis in May to open for David Bowie. It's a Welsh invasion! Oh. My.