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The Bluetones: A New Athens (CIA Recordings)

Sixth album from Britpoppers is lovely in its own way.

If the Bluetones had named their big mid-nineties hit Where Did You Go? or Don’t Go Hoping For A Miracle – or indeed anything that referenced the lyric – instead of choosing the NME in-joke of Slight Return, they might have had a different career.

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What use is a singalong smash if nobody can remember its name? Then again, perhaps it was precisely this wilful streak that saved Mark Morriss’s likeable Londoners from going down with the rest of the Britpop crew. They’ve never again come close to the success they enjoyed then but they’ve kept toiling away, with A New Athens their sixth album. And while the almost Air-esque burbling of The Notes Between The Notes Between The Notes soon makes way for a more predictably guitar-led approach, their lovely way with a melodic organ twist, taken to psychedelic extremes on Pranchestonelle, raises the game. Indeed – oddly, wonderfully – the comparison that often comes to mind is The Decemberists, albeit with a long way to go on the lyrical front.

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