For some reason or another, So This Is Great Britain makes me want to drink. This London-based band's debut album is cool pub rock, making you want to hang with your best mates, share a few pints and bitch about how shitty the state of things are. Beneath the fun rock exterior hides an interesting, politically charged album that catches you off guard. Great music AND a message, a combination that is rare to find.
The Holloways are a four-piece group that formed back in 2004. At times these lads sound a bit like The Libertines mixed with Arctic Monkeys, but with plenty of twists and turns to keep them away from relying too much on their influences. Kicking things off with the title track, we're treated to a heavy dose of guitar pop and politics. It starts a bit flat, but by the end with the crunchy guitar solo joined by a fiddle, it gets rather interesting.
"Generator" is quite an infectious track, leading off with the tongue twister "I can get a record player / And a generator / Generate the music that makes you feel better." Try saying that five times in a row, especially after a few lagers. The upbeat vocal harmonies bring the Mystery Jets to mind if they partied with Dogs Die In Hot Cars. This continues on with "Dancefloor," with another generous portion of vocal harmonizing between frontman Alfie Jackson and Rob Skipper.
One of the more interesting tracks on the album is "Two Left Feet," bringing back the violin and tossing in some harmonica for good flavor. This feel good song gives us a break from the politics, bringing in lighthearted topics such as forgetting a girl's name and blaming it on booze. On the opposite end of the Holloways' spectrum is "Most Lonely Face," which is quite a remarkable ballad about a London prostitute. By pulling away from the pop for a few minutes, they are able to show off their musicianship with this bummer of a ballad.
Although it isn't without a few stumbles, So This Is Great Britain is quite an enjoyable debut from The Holloways. This band straddles the line between Arctic Monkeys and The Libertines a bit too closely at times, but when they break away from those influences, their true skills really shine through. I'd be very curious to hear what the come up with as a sophomore effort.