Record Overplayed
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Hope & Social | CD review | 2016

HOPE & SOCIAL - Feel (07/10/16)

Review by Dawn

It's always nerve-wracking when one of your favourite bands releases a new album. What will it sound like? Will you love it? Most importantly, will it live up to the previous releases of which you're so very fond? I've often been known to put off listening to a new LP until after I've had chance to hear an artist play the tracks live - maybe it's just me, but I usually prefer my first experience of new songs to be at a gig rather than through a stereo. When Hope & Social's Feel was released last Friday, however, I had to give in and give it a spin because their tour dates were still a few weeks away and where great bands are concerned I've never been known for my patience. I wasn't disappointed.

It turns out that the band's first release from the album (and, indeed, their first ever single) Sunrise Laughing was a great indicator of the treasures to be found on the rest of Feel, its upbeat melody, smile-inducing funky brass and life-affirming lyrics echoing those of previous albums and setting the precedent for the other eight tracks here. There are even a few subtle lyrical references back to songs from earlier albums to tie everything neatly together. But don't be fooled into thinking that Hope & Social are a one-trick pony because there's plenty of musical variety here with a wonderful selection of styles, instruments and noises, and while Feel is still perfectly Hope & Social, it also sees the band trying out new ideas – or (and, given their love of fun and experimentation, this is much more likely) just having the time of their lives playing with some new toys.

Never ones to shy away from something for fear of making fools of themselves, Hope & Social's live shows have long brought joy to people thanks to the sheer scale and optimism of their ambition and although earlier albums have come close to reproducing this, Feel really does, erm, feel as though it's a proper slice of their live energy and happiness committed to CD (and blue vinyl). With its fabulous synth sounds Tommy Gun is both stirring and uplifting; The View from Above is wonderfully rousing and very 1980s (with extra brass), South Facing is just lovely; while Dig Hard's singalong chorus and reassuring lyrics are guaranteed to raise a smile. Meanwhile, even after only a few plays, the aforementioned Sunrise Laughing already sounds like a classic more than capable of being a live favourite up there with Rolling Sideways and Back to the Green.

Let's face it, 2016 has been a pretty rubbish year, so what better tonic could there be than nine glorious new songs from a bunch of blokes in blue jackets whose grin-inducing wonky pop wins over new fans with every single project they throw themselves into. Whether it's teaching their songs to community groups for 'A Band Anyone Can Join' or tearing it up alongside the New York Brass Band at the superb Durham Brass festival, Hope & Social put their heart and soul into everything they do – and it shows.  In a world where it seems that we're all becoming increasingly dejected, the power of music should never be overlooked. Hope & Social's undying enthusiasm and happiness are as infectious as their songs, and their songs make me Feel like dancing.  

Hope & Social's new album Feel is available from their Bandcamp store as a CD or a download (on a Pay What You Want basis, as are all their earlier releases) or on lovely blue vinyl. They're on tour in October and November. Visit hopeandsocial.co.uk for more information.

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