Take a trip back in time with me 24 years. Things were still shit, but they weren’t as shit. And music felt like a melting pot. This was ace for those like me who’s favourite thing is the next thing. It felt like anyone could do anything. It felt like anything was possible and lines were blurred.

Into this rarefied atmosphere stepped Grand Theft Audio. They were the embodiment of it. They were big, brash, dumb, clever. They were signed to a massive record label. They were on computer games, they were going to be huge. Ask them what happened. I don’t know. But the “Blame Everyone” album is still incredible.

They weren’t really a “new band”. Rich Battersby was the drummer in The Wildhearts. He probably will be again, one day. Jay Butler was the singer in the Real TV. Chris McCormack once of Three Colours Red provided the lip-curl and Ralph Jezzard completed the band. He’d worked with Rich on The Wildhearts oddball thing “Endless Nameless”. A record that was like being punched with a barbed wire knuckle duster, but which had some of the sweetest harmonies known to man underneath.

Anyway, that’s the past. And screw the past. GTA have a future. And its in this here shining gem. “Pass Me The Conch” was of course going to be good. They released three singles over the last couple of years. One of which isn’t here. They know its good too. They played a lot of it a couple of months ago at their “comeback” gig.

What you might not be prepared for is just how good this is.

“Scrub Up” gets up and at ‘em straight away. No pre-amble. No bullshit. Lets go. There’s a 90s feel. Remember Radiator? No, thought not. I do and this has their hallmarks. But there’s the ebullient chorus that became something of a GTA hallmark. Like Butler is blowing the cobwebs off. “Hell yeah, come on put your fists in the air!” that’s basically it.

Jezzard has gone and McCormack was never in the reformed band, and the now two of them have that quirky two-piece, Royal Blood thing going on. “What do you say we fuck things up?” they sing on the punky “Bury The Day”. It doesn’t sound like its optional. So lets do it, it sounds fun.

When they played that gig in Wolves, there was a standout moment from the new stuff we didn’t know yet. “Gods Of Rock”. Christ it’s good. Catchier than the ‘rona, it’s got more handclaps than glam rock in the 70s, but its coupled with the acerbic “no one cares about your shit song, we’re just waiting for the end.”

They know how to sloganeer, these boys. “All introspection is bullshit in the end” offers Butler, but the best of the lot comes in “Trevor”. The song sounds like its coming out of an underground bondage club at 3am (you’d guess……) but it follows the life of everyman UK, and concludes: “the future is a game and no one here is winning”. Fetch me the t-shirt with that on. 2022, get stuffed!

“Ruin Your Youth” (one of the singles) is what is best described as an indie floor-filler. A beauty of a thing. Then comes the other one that I’d Spotified before. A wonderful “Ici Mon Decree” (sung in French – Butler lived there, he might still do, I am not stalking him, I’ve got it off the album bio….) just for fun, I decree it to be rather good. Makes me wish I’d tried harder in French now instead of just lusting after Miss Oxborough (I haven’t changed this name, I should’ve, but I haven’t).

This is an album of left turns and diversions. That said, “Away” – a massive arena filling ballad – was not what you expected, the lyrics are brilliant here too. Plus, it caused me to spend about half an hour on YouTube. See, there’s a breakdown bit which sounds exactly like the song Birmingham Bears come out to at the T20 Cricket, and all I know was the hook of “whatever works”. I now know the song is “This Girl” by Kungs vs Cookin’ on 3 Burners, so don’t tell me I don’t know how to spend my time, frankly.

Then there’s the real dance ones. I led a very sheltered life. If I take a Rennie I feel racy. You suspect that “Bad Instinct” comes from a different place, and the slow pace of “The Load” feels like the comedown, and “I Am The Algorithm” sort of dots the I’ and crosses the T’s by being rather bonkers and sounding exactly like GTA always should have.

The fact is no algorithm in the world is catching this. No programme is going to suggest it as the next thing on your safe party playlist, but good grief, there’s more fun in the margins, right?

Right. “Pass Me The Conch” is a work of genuine genius. Twisted genius, but genius all the same. It took longer to emerge than “Chinese Democracy” mind you, but that’s almost proof that the best things are worth waiting for.  Oh and a Conch? I had to google this [is] a large spiral shell, or the tropical snail-like sea creature that lives in it. No, I don’t know why the album is called that either. Let’s not delve too deeply. Some things you’re better off not knowing.

Rating 9.5/10

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