World I Understand sees The Sherlocks unveil their best album yet, fit for stadiums and high up festival slots.
The Sherlocks performance at Glasgow’s SWG3 venue in February 2020 was one that was to live long in the memory. The South Yorkshire band put on an excellent show, of course, but it also happened to be my final gig before the coronavirus lockdown ground the country to a halt. With 18 months slowly passing before I had the pleasure of enjoying live music again (Fontaines D.C. at the Barrowlands, no less), thankfully the memory of their boisterous set left a sense of satisfaction to ensure my gig feet didn’t get too itchy (at first, anyway…).
Over the past few years, a word of mouth cult following has grown around the South Yorkshire band due to their explosive live performances and ferocious rock ‘n’ roll bangers which, in turn, resulted in my attendance in a west-end warehouse on that cold and wet, typically Glasgow late-winter Saturday evening.
Inspired by bands like The Smiths, The Courteeners, Arctic Monkeys and The Chameleons, The Sherlocks follow a long line of northern British indie rock artists that produce populist indie anthems. Yet, despite a sellout show in Glasgow and elsewhere, the early hype and cult acclaim hasn't transferred into mainstream success. They've been kept at bay in the lower echelons of festival lineups (they were berated for being "disrespectful" in 2018 when they edited a Y Not festival lineup poster to appear higher up than The Amazons) and despite an accessible sound, they've struggling to fully break into the more mainstream indie world vacated by other radio-friendly guitar acts established in the 2010s (Wolf Alice, Gerry Cinnamon, Blossoms, Declan McKenna...).
It's easy to forget that The Sherlocks were hyped as the next big band a few years back, and their stalling since has to go down as a result of their first two albums ultimately falling short. Live For The Moment (2017) had its moments before running out of steam, whilst 2019's Under Your Sky was an enjoyable enough listen but its overly polished nature ensured a level of unwanted banality. It felt bloated, too formulaic and struggled to hit the heights of chest pumping lead single ‘NYC (Sing It Loud)’. The potential was there, they were just missing an extra spark that the bands who inspired them possessed in spades.
Following a shift in line up after their second album (lead guitarist Alex Procter and new bassist Trent Jackson joined the band in 2020, completing the line up with frontman and drummer brother duo Kiaran Cook and Brandon Crook), The Sherlocks are back with a bang having just released third album World I Understand, proving its never too late to meet your potential.
Whilst they haven’t exactly reinvented themselves or their formula, it’s easily their most cohesive, punchy and fun record to date. The hooks are big, the guitar anthems just as plentiful, yet this time around they’ve created a more diverse record that does just enough to battle against the staleness of before.
‘Porto’ builds up an atmosphere before swiftly moving into ‘Falling’, definitely darker and more ominous than what we’ve become accustomed to. It has The Sherlocks tapping into a more post-punk sound without compromising their indie banger template and the use of strings throughout adds extra tension in what feels like welcomed new territory.
‘Wake Up’ is more hopeful sonically, contrasting to the lyrics which paint a picture of late-night drinking regret and alcohol-inspired bad decisions (“I fall for it every time / The more I drink the less I find / That I'lI know when to go / When it's time to go home”). ‘On The Run’ packs in the punch as Kiaran provides a message of inspiration (“So don't look down, just leave this town / Or nothing's ever gonna change / Follow that star, get in your car”).
‘Plastic Heart’ sees the band channelling their inner Nirvana, though they disappointingly revert back to type after a promising start. ‘City Lights’ cranks the synths up for a deliciously catchy Killers inspired anthem and leads on perfectly to ‘Sorry’, a song exploring post-relationship despair and bitter reflection (“Sorry, but I just don't care / So go and tell your friends I was so unfair / That you were spending time in the devil's lair / Well, maybe one day, you'll see things better”).
The tracks at this point just keep getting better, battling against the mid-album slog of previous records. After the epic and string-centred ‘Games You Play’ provides some dynamism and Morricone-inspired class, we reach ‘World I Understand’ and the best has arrived, for sure. The title track is a euphoric anthem with a massive stadium rock chorus and, despite following on the bitter post-relationship theme of ‘Sorry’, possesses an addictive and longing quality to demand your attention. That I endlessly played it on a loop upon its release in October is no coincidence and it would later finish number 17 on my list of best songs of 2021.
When the best albums finish they usually do so leaving us wanting more. This is exactly what the blissful and reflective ‘Slip Road’ achieves, the impact of the repeated refrain of "will it be too late?" lingering far past the album's conclusion.
The Sherlocks third album was recorded in the Rockfield studio in Wales, a venue famous for being where bands like Oasis, The Stone Roses and Queen produced their best work. Whilst they're nowhere near the level of those bands, World I Understand is a brilliant record full of enough big hooks, guitar anthems, and universal lyrical themes of heartbreak and hope. It’ll please the established mainstream indie audience, oh and there’s enough ‘oohs’ and ‘woahs’ across the album to demand a singalong (definite plus points in my book).
Yes, of course, the tunes can be fairly formulaic and the lyrics on the simple side at times, but World I Understand is a heap of fun. It rights the wrongs of their first two albums and should provide them with a seat at the top table of British bands. They’ve finally reached their potential at the third time of asking, lets just hope they haven't missed the boat of mainstream success.