A review of The Snuts debut album W.L., an album hyped as one to bring indie rock back to the masses. Do the West Lothian band deliver?
As lead singer Jack Cochrane spoke to Annie Mac's Radio 1 show on Thursday (1 April) to speak about The Snuts' new album and debut new single 'Glasgow', social media revelled in excitement for the following day's release.
The curly-haired frontman revealed the album's initials to be an ode to a local group of troublemakers in the West Lothian town they grew up in called 'Whitburn Loopy'. He also spoke about the tough upbringing the band members encountered and how they battled against the odds to get to where they are today.
The band formed in high school a decade ago, but they come from a Scottish central belt town where dreams of rockstar status are far, far away.
The fact that they've made it this far to release one of 2021's most hyped albums is simply remarkable. And who doesn't love a rock 'n' roll underdog story?
A hype not seen for a band in years
Today, The Snuts are being talked about as this year's hot band and one we can all unite behind to counter Adam Levine's claim that bands are a "dying breed". In December, they announced their new album would be released on 19 March (this would later be delayed by two weeks due to the global pandemic), starting an excitement for a band's debut on par with any other of the past few years.
For the past three months, the buzz for this debut has grown and grown. Some even went as far as saying they hadn't looked forward to a new album since Arctic Monkeys' 2006 debut Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not.
Whilst the comparisons to the Sheffield band are certainly vague in sound, you can understand it in relation to the cult-like acclaim The Snuts have developed over the last couple of years. Four working-class lads playing rock 'n' roll, fostering a large following up and down the country long before their debut, all the while looking the part in doing so.
This excitement has, of course, been strongest in their Scottish homeland, a public who back their own like no other. Before their debut album had even been released, The Snuts sold out Glasgow's iconic Barrowlands venue over three nights in June. This is fever not seen for a band in Scotland since Dundee's The View back in 2006/2007.
The reason for this is due to the success of a host of early singles and demos such as 'Glasgow', 'Sing for Your Supper' and 'Seasons'; blues-rock tunes with plenty of groove and heart. The hype grew to new levels in March 2020 with the release of their Mixtape EP. This soundtracked our early lockdown days to bangers such as 'Don't Forget It (Punk)', 'Coffee & Cigarettes' and 'Fatboy Slim'. These were big songs that demanded big audiences.
How does it sound then?
If the new album sounds familiar, it's probably because it is. Most of the abovementioned songs feature on the new record, with eight of the thirteen songs on W.L. already released as singles. The band definitely play it safe with a number of established fan favourites ensuring the upcoming gigs will be heavy chant-a-long affairs.
What you notice on the record is the variety over the 45 minutes, the band not committing to one particular sound throughout. In an interview with NME on 22 March, Jack Cochrane admitted the band's reluctance to stick to a specific sound. He said.
“If you record the same song over and over again, then people will just expect that from you. It was something that we were always cautious of while making this album.”
Jack Cochrane, 22 March 2021
Does this hamper the band? I don't think so, but it will be interesting to see if they refine their sound on future releases. People may lose interest in future without harrowing into a particular concept for their future records. For now, there's something for everyone on the record, meaning many tracks will be fit for big live shows and TV shows, whilst others - like 'Boardwalk' - are more moody and intense in nature.
Opener 'Top Deck' has emerged as an early fan favourite from the record. It's an incredibly tender introduction to the record and perhaps the start we weren't expecting. In this track - which Jack wrote when he was 15 - the frontman's voice grabs at our heartstrings as he sings about growing up in a town surrounded by drug culture.
The second track 'Always', carries a certain late-night vibe. Its smooth blues-rock riff and Jack's chorus howls of "you know I love you more every morning" contrast greatly to the opener. I loved it so much last year it made an appearance in my top songs list of 2020. 'Juan Belmonte' sees the band mix it up again, a song that is amongst the most stylish and funky on the record.
Then we're hit with 'All Your Friends', an irresistible bass-line alongside an ominous guitar riff and explosive chorus ("and all your friends got that cocaine on their faces"). We're four tracks in and each one has differed so much from before. It's an outstanding start.
However, it's not all plain sailing. If their everyman status is part of their appeal, there are definitely moments where they tread too close to the pop world for some rock 'n' roll fans.
Take 'Somebody Loves You' as an example. It's a corny, sugary number with a generic message of love and happiness. In fairness to the band, they followed through on the message by donating the budget for the video to the Scottish Refugee Council. Instead, they filmed the video on their smartphones and did a fairly good job in doing so!
As for the song itself, this one is could be divisive and most likely to be met with the skip button on my part. If ever a track was likely to alienate a fanbase, this is it. But I'll give them the benefit of the doubt here, some of my favourite albums of all time still have songs I simply can't take to.
The highlight of the album is 'Glasgow'. There's a Celtic-rock riff and big built up, before a chorus of "I'll always love the way that you sing 'Glasgow'". It's an uplifting track bound to get the crowds going wild at gigs and festivals alike. The song will always have a special place in the hearts of fans of the band as it was the one that got their career rolling back in 2016 and the energy is so infectious.
Running close is 'Don't Forget It (Punk)', a track full of swagger and faux-aggression that The Snuts had written in Brooklyn. It has Jack singing "it's not the way you dress, it's the way that you sound, I don't regret it when we're bringing the funk, don't forget, don't forget it (punk)". This was an early favourite from last year's Mixtape EP and a song the band have described as "an absolute f*** you tune", sticking their middle finger up to the industry. It's the band at their rawest. Just brilliant!
'Maybe California' has a certain chilled out vibe and summery feel which feels at home in the American state it aspires to sound like. 'Coffee & Cigarettes' and 'Elephants' were another two tracks well-known to The Snuts fanbase ahead of this album and ensure the album ends on an upbeat and funky note.
'Sing For Your Supper' is exactly the epic sound you want the album to finish on. It's heartfelt, uplifting and anthemic all in the one go. At over 6 minutes, it's a song which will take you on a journey, one which you won't want to end. A perfect end to a great debut record.
What's the verdict?
Simply brilliant. If this isn't an album to prove there's still a place for bands in the mainstream then I don't know what is. In any normal year, W.L. is the album of the summer not just for indie fans, but for many pop music fans too.
It's the sound of a band that should soon be headlining festivals and selling out shows across Europe. And if Lewis Capaldi (who is from nearby Bathgate and began on the same gig circuit) can have hits in America, who's to say The Snuts can't fly over the big pond and find a level of success there too?
It's funny, I went from being cynical to all the hype to quickly getting on board. A couple of tracks - such as 'No Place I'd Rather Go' and 'Top Deck' - took a while to fully appreciate, but they now feel essential parts of this album. The only track I'm refusing to budge on is 'Somebody Loves You'. I'd be lying if I didn't admit my contempt for it. Having said that, I bet this is the track which goes on to have the biggest reaction at their live shows!
Earlier I'd compared the hype of the band to that of The View and Arctic Monkeys. Sadly we live in different times where bands aren't exactly flavour of the month/year/decade when it comes to breaking the mainstream, so perhaps tempering expectations is for the best. In the indie world at least, they're the hottest thing right now and this acclaim will only ever grow. The sky is the limit for these lads, or at least it should be.
They may not have had a hit yet like The View's 'Same Jeans' or Arctic Monkeys' 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor', but W.L. is a diverse record full of radio-friendly, festival favourites.
From bands to regular punters, it's no surprise that the indie community has come together this week to push the album to number 1. Even One Direction's Louis Tomlinson was tweeting his praise of the record to his 35 million followers!
The Snuts edge more to the funk side of rock 'n' roll over the rawer, punkier side of the Dundonians or the Sheffield boys, proving they - unlike many 'current' bands - aren't simply trying to rehash the garage rock revival sound of the early to mid 2000s.
The flow of the record is also excellent and there's barely a dull moment over the 45 minutes run time. If you're ever worried about the record losing focus on a track, the band will simply raise your spirits with energy and big hooks on the next. They aren't the finished article by any stretch - certainly the vagueness to some of the lyrics dictate that - but this is an explosive start.
W.L. is an incredibly accomplished and enjoyable record, fit for festival headline sets and sing-along gigs. The hype it's been getting is entirely justified so you may as well get on board.