Ten years after releasing their calling card, 1997’s Word Gets Around, Stereophonics had lost none of their penchant for turning out socially conscious songs that sat somewhere between state-of-the-world address and local news report. Perhaps that would always be the way for Kelly Jones and Co., a band that remains indomitably tied to their roots in Cwmaman, Wales, yet who have tasted global success and filled stadium venues around the world. Like fellow Welsh firebrands Manic Street Preachers, theirs is a unique worldview: one part local boys in the photograph, one part chart-topping heroes that went out and conquered. So when their sixth album, Pull The Pin, came out on October 15, 2007, it was no surprise to see it sitting atop the UK album charts a week later on October 21 – their fifth UK No. 1 in a row.
No doubt the group’s fiercely committed Welsh fans were as engaged as ever, but songs such as lead single “It Means Nothing“ also ensnared the broader populace. A mid-tempo ballad, it saw Kelly try to make sense of the London bombings of July 7, 2007 (“If the bomb goes off again/In my brain around the train/And I hope that I’m with you/’Cause I wouldn’t know what to do”), touching a nerve with the public and making it to No. 12 in the UK charts (while also, perhaps understandably, resonating with a Belgian audience that took it to No. 73 in their homeland).
Opener “Soldiers Make Good Targets“ left no confusion over what was on Kelly’s mind, while on “Daisy Street“ he turned his attention to happenings in his own neighborhood: the fatal stabbing of a teenage boy that left the community shocked. Elsewhere, “Bank Holiday Monday“ proved that the group continued to sit comfortably in the post-Oasis world of British indie rock, while, with its introspective lyrics and soaring chorus, “Stone“ confidently pressed the stadium-anthem button.
Having had a hand in producing the group’s previous two albums, 2003’s You Gotta Go There To Come Back and 2005’s Language. Sex. Violence. Other?, Kelly Jones was also by this point comfortable in the studio, fashioning, along with co-producer Jim Lowe, a slick, radio-friendly sound that not only found its way to the top of the UK charts, but comfortably breached the Top 40 in four other countries. Keep Calm And Carry On was the name of Stereophonics’ next album, but as Pull The Pin suggested: with the world in disarray, that was possibly Stereophonics’ motto all along.