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Best of the Rest, Vol 7: Stereophonics

*as originally published in Stereo Embers Magazine 5/5/21

I’ll level with you.

We’re good like that, yeah?

I’m tossing myself a softball here. A large, Welsh, beer-soaked softball.

Perhaps it would be more fitting if I went with a better suited sports analogy…footy, rugby even. Snooker? They play snooker in Wales, I think.

Whatever. You’re smart, You get it.

This is lob city, an alley oop of “Best of the Rest”-ness.

The biggest reason being – the main crux of this particular column is the avoidance of the gargantuan hits in favor of the deeper, oft- forgotten, album tracks. While annoying and redundant, this reminder is also pretty fucking relevant based on one’s location and relationship to this band.

For instance, if you are a current and longtime North American, then just about every Stereophioncs song is a candidate, as their “hits” are few and far between in this general direction.

Conversely, if you are lucky enough to be perusing from a more British or European locale, then you’ve heard the better part of most Stereophonics records on the radio for years.

Back to that softball. This version of Stereophonics “Best of the Rest” will be targeting the naive, uneducated North American listener who might have let this banger of a band slip right on by.

Fear not, none of the 10 songs featured on the list are mega hits on either side of the Atlantic, but there’s some pretty well known tunes to established fans. If you qualify as such, you’ll have to suck it up and be happy that I’m talking about Kelly Jones and the fellas in the first place.

Speaking of Kelly Jones and his longtime ‘Phonics-mate Richard Jones (no relation): what a band, right?!

Criminally undervalued in so many places, but HUGE in so many others, Stereophonics never had the trappings of their British brethren. They never had the sneer of Oasis or Blur. They didn’t feature sad and drab in that Smiths/Cure way. They weren’t glammy and they certainly weren’t punky. From their first album, Word Gets Around, Kelly Jones has written story songs – some containing vegetables. He’s always been the consummate observer.

Characters and narratives abound in Stereophonics songs, and yes, some of those characters get drunk and stoned, but the party was never the central theme.

The other big line in the sand between Stereophonics and others of their ilk is obviously Kelly Jones’ voice. Dude’s got magical pipes. Raspy in all the best ways, Jones never sounded particularly British (whatever British sounds like).

Always more Muscle Shoals than Cardiff, he’s in a class all his own when it comes to vocals. Special stuff in there.

Look, Stereophonics have a shitload records out. And one of the fairest criticisms of the band is the lack of diversity in sound from album to album. Although I would argue that there are moments of tremendous shift in the bands’ sound and approach at several distinct points, the criticism is pretty well taken. Some of their records are totally indistinguishable from each other, which could prove difficult if trying to locate an obvious jumping off point.

This is precisely why I picked Stereophonics for this column, people! Let me intrepidly shepherd you towards some of the best, non-hits across their massive catalog.

Picking merely 10 songs was heady stuff indeed, but an embarrassment of riches awaits.

Stereophonics…the word just sounds cool too. Love this band…

Best of the Rest: Stereophonics Playlist on Spotify

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