In the post-Arctic Monkeys world of British indie, being able to talk the biggest talk is an important commodity to have, even if there’s little to no control over whether that’ll result in blowing up or flaming out. It’s a balancing act that The Sherlocks should be all too familiar with, given how they were the source of much derision after Photoshopping the lineup poster for last year’s Y Not Festival to put themselves higher up the bill, clearly a result of their own self-believed superiority that hasn’t exactly been reciprocated. Indeed, The Sherlocks seem to be one of those indie bands who’ve gotten along because they simply exist and no one’s bothered to tell them that another one really isn’t needed; their debut Live For The Moment ran down the indie album checklist with thorough voracity but has done absolutely nothing in the scene at large. There’s clearly still some push behind them despite that – they took up one of the much-sought-after secret slots at this year’s Reading & Leeds, after all – which leads to the belief that either there’s too much bank wrapped up in this band to leave them at the roadside just yet, or that Under Your Sky is going to be the album where they finally reveal their hand and prove they can do more than the bare minimum.
What’s odd though, is that while The Sherlocks unequivocally fall into the former camp with not a single, solitary factor to differentiate them from any number of indie chancers, it’s not impossible to see where some appeal could lie. Under Your Sky isn’t a good album by any means, but put next to the almost offensive blandness of The Amazons or The Hunna, the fact that even faint slivers of nostalgia can be eked out of this thing somewhat inexplicably puts it on top overall. That’s not a glowing endorsement, but the fact it could all be so much worse provides some solace, even if what is here still isn’t all the stellar to begin with.
Really, where The Sherlocks fall is somewhere in between the 2000s indie shovelware like The Enemy or The Pigeon Detectives, and a more contemporary band like Blossoms, with neither side being all that riveting but not necessarily objectionable to have around either. By that token, it’s in their use of melodies that The Sherlocks find the most success, and indeed, simple, crowd-pleasing festival-indie fare is what makes up the bulk of this album. It’s not like there’s not a certain degree of quality to NYC (Sing It Loud) or Time To Go either, with their big, rollicking progressions and the effort put into hooks that’ll fit snugly on daytime Radio 1 playlists for the foreseeable future. Divorced from the band and slotted into the nebulous but contextually necessary category of 21st Century indie, there’s really nothing all that horrible about the material on Under Your Sky, and for the job it’s designed to do, it’d be hard to argue that’s not accomplished.
But then again, acknowledging that this is an album released in 2019 that sounds as though it hasn’t evolved since a general period of 2005 to 2008 is pretty important, and when that and that alone can sum up The Sherlocks’ entire existence as a band, it’s difficult to see what the point is. It’s not like they’re bringing some unique style of personality to the format, not with a frontman like Kiaran Crook who’s about as much of a nobody as it comes and the gloss and finish of the production to throw out its radio-readiness with even more haste. Sure, they’ll throw in some synth twinkles on Give It All Up and strings on Step Inside, but neither amounts to anything that both their contemporaries and forebears haven’t already done, and with how blatantly whitewashed the whole thing is, they don’t do all that much as it is. It can all feel painfully toothless almost throughout, and with seemingly even less effort going into lyrics that pile on the 2000s indie clichés in earnest (not helped when two of the worst offenders I Want It All and the title track bookend the album), it’s hard to find anything of much worth to say about The Sherlocks as a whole. They’ve effectively almost reached the pinnacle of indie ineffectuality, and Under Your Sky almost seems to flaunt that fact as if it’s something to be proud of.
It’s not, for the record, and even if The Sherlocks aren’t exactly the worst band in the world for trying it, it can come across as more than a bit lazy in an unwillingness to develop even an inkling of what could be considered something of their own. The melodies do work on the whole, but they’re not presented in a way that makes them even remotely capable of holding out in the long term, and while the nostalgia baiting tactic is lucrative now, seeing that The Sherlocks have seemingly based their entire identity on it doesn’t bode well for the future when they’ll inevitably have do something of their own. Right now, Under Your Sky is a fine preview for what’s to come throughout 2020’s festival season, but as it’s own thing, it just shows another reason why The Sherlocks shouldn’t have stuck around this long in the first place.
For fans of: Blossoms, Maximo Park, The Pigeon Detectives
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Under Your Sky’ by The Sherlocks is released on 4th October on BMG Rights Management.