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Hooton Tennis Club - Big Box Of Chocolates (Album Review)

Thursday, 27 October 2016 Written by Graeme Marsh

Hooton Tennis Club are back with a second album just over a year since their debut, ‘Highest Point In Cliff Town’, delivered a volley of Britpop-influenced lo-fi slacker rock.

Recorded over three weeks in Helmsdale, Scotland with producer Edwyn Collins at his Clashnarrow Studios, ‘Big Box of Chocolates’ continues in the same vein. Their knack for creating stories and depicting colourful characters, both fictional and real, through lazily slung, loopy lyrics shows no sign of coming to an end.

Of the non-fictional subjects, lead single Katy-Anne Bellis tells a short, sharp tale about singer/guitarist Ryan Murphy’s housemate moving uptown, while Lauren, I’m In Love is a lovelorn ode to BBC 6 Music presenter Lauren Laverne that’s awash with down-to-earth lyrics.

Fictional subjects, meanwhile, include Bootcut Jimmy, who veers from genius to loser within a few seconds on a Blur-like effort with blazing guitar solo. The rock ‘n’ roll-loving Lazers Linda then pops up for a faster cut that includes a Beatles “woo” to cue up mayhem at future live shows.

A whirlwind 41 minutes sees other notable numbers come and go, including the stomping curtain raiser Growing Concerns, which melds a memorable guitar melody with an off-key vocal reminiscent of Joe Strummer or Elvis Costello, while O Man, Won’t You Melt Me provides some enjoyably catchy joviality with decent guitar solo to boot.

Statue Of The Greatest Woman I Know, meanwhile, races along in rock ‘n’ roll style, its mundane lyrics about painting the kitchen and the top of the stairs somehow providing more excitement than they should. Sit Like Ravi, which should perhaps have been called Sit Like Damon given its obvious nods towards Blur during an eerily familiar bridge and chorus, falters until an impressive, mostly instrumental outro kicks in.

The album’s two greatest moments, though, stand out considerably. Bad Dream (Breakdown On St George’s Mount) places all the right chords in all the right places and its guitar solo is simple yet impressive. Meet Me At Molly Bench raises the stakes even higher and is built around a hideously infectious guitar hook, with a bonkers bicycle bell injecting further frivolity.

Billed as a coming of age, ‘Big Box of Chocolates’ still dabbles in plenty of fun-packed, wacky storytelling so it’s hard to agree entirely with that claim. It lacks a little of the raw charm and appeal of the band’s debut but is another fine collection of upbeat, absurdly quirky songs that will lift the spirits of even the grumpiest Victor Meldrew. The album’s cover, a series of vibrantly boyish comic-book sketches about each song, says it all.

Hooton Tennis Club Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu October 27 2016 - NORWICH Waterfront Norwich
Sun October 30 2016 - EDINBURGH Electric Circus
Mon October 31 2016 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Think Tank
Tue November 01 2016 - SHEFFIELD Leadmill
Thu November 03 2016 - CAMBRIDGE Portland Arms
Mon November 07 2016 - BRISTOL Thekla
Tue November 08 2016 - GUILDFORD Boileroom
Thu November 10 2016 - BRIGHTON Bleach
Fri November 11 2016 - ST ALBANS Horns
Mon November 14 2016 - CARDIFF Clwb Ifor Bach
Tue November 15 2016 - NOTTINGHAM Bodega Social Club
Wed November 16 2016 - LONDON Garage
Fri December 09 2016 - LIVERPOOL Invisible Wind Factory

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