For a population of just over 3 million, Wales produces an impressive array of acclaimed indie acts. Super Furry Animals, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Manic Street Preachers all belong to the pantheon of Welsh greats and, since releasing his debut LP in 2008, Stephen Black – the singer-songwriter behind Sweet Baboo - has been tipped to join this stellar collection.
Album number four, Ships, should have been Black’s moment. Jammed with quirky horn-led flourishes, it’s a record that will warm the hearts of the more sentimentally disposed. Yet, despite the trumpet-parping sweet spot of “If I Died”, there's a diluted Noah & The Whale feel to many of these troves.
The honeyed twangs of “C'mon Let’s Mosh” and “Chubby Cheeks” are particularly nauseating – each a damning indictment of feeble execution. And while it’s not a complete failure, Ships’ myriad weak points show Stephen Black may struggle to scale those grander Welsh peaks.
First published in the June/July edition of Under the Radar magazine