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Sports Team - Deep Down Happy (Album Review)

Tuesday, 09 June 2020 Written by Huw Baines

Emerging from a haze of industry buzz, with a youthful core of die hard fans behind them and rapturous live notices in hand, Sports Team have plenty of outside interference to contend with on their debut album. But ‘Deep Down Happy’ approaches the job gamely, pairing festival-ready shoutalongs with Kinks-style middle England proselytising.

This is an eager, canny record that does just enough with its blueprints to quiet the feeling that indie’s next big thing amounts to the second coming of the Rakes. When it works, as on the anthemic Camel Crew, it really works, and that glow coats the more rote nods to landfill indie.

Vocalist Alex Rice comes alive in the LP’s descriptive passages, where he’s able to sketch evocative scenes within the band’s ambling indie-rock framework.

From carvery lunches to small town Slug & Lettuce pubs he situates the listener within Sports Team’s world, even if truly incisive social commentary remains out of sight around the bend. It’s not really clear if that’s something they’re aiming for, though. It’s entirely possible that they might just be out for a bit of a laugh. 

Conveniently, Rice benefits from a perfect foil in songwriter-guitarist Rob Knaggs, who ensures that ‘Deep Down Happy’ is pogo-ready fun from top to bottom. There are exciting moments, as on the raucous opener Lander, where Knaggs and fellow guitarist Henry Young jag back against Rice’s talky style, adding punchy melodic leads as a hardcore band might. 

Having progressed to selling out decent sized theatres before releasing their debut, Sports Team would have had to disastrously drop the ball here to check their momentum. ‘Deep Down Happy’ isn’t perfect, but it’s engaging enough to keep the band on an upward trajectory. Whether they eventually end up as Radio X filler or as a modern day Pulp is a question for another time.

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