Music: Phonics are back on track with Graffiti On The Train

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THEY’VE recharged, re-grouped and they’re back in South Yorkshire.

There’s a new and critically acclaimed album and they’re on a sell-out UK stadium tour.

Things are back on track for the Stereophonics.

But in late 2010 no-one would have predicted that this is where they’d be today.

After three years of constant touring the Stereophonics were starting to become a shadow of their hard-rocking selves. They’d worked with The Who, The Black Crowes, Tom Jones and Paul Weller and sold 20 million albums

Being so busy, however, came at a price. In Stereophonics’ case, particularly that of frontman and songwriter Kelly Jones, it seemed to be the drying up of ideas.

Their seventh album, Keep Calm And Carry On, released in late 2009, was their poorest selling and lowest charting, having peaked at No 11.

A year later, the ‘Phonics, as they’re colloquially known, decided to stop and regroup.

The result is Graffiti On The Train, their eighth album and easily the best since 2005’s Language. Sex. Violence. Other?, which in itself was something of a revelation and yielded their only No 1 single, Dakota.

“We finished touring in November 2010, not out of fatigue or anything - it was all very positive,” says Jones. “We’d just never had our own studio before and that was something we wanted, and it seemed like a natural time to take a break.”

Along with fellow founder member Richard Jones, the band’s bassist and backing singer; the now departed drummer Javier Weyler, and guitarist Adam Zindani, who became an official member in 2008 having previously toured with the band, Jones opted to rethink the way they approached making albums and take a year off from touring. Something they hadn’t done in 16 years.

“I really wanted to concentrate on songwriting again. The first two albums we had so much time to write, and it was all a collaborative effort between the three of us,” says Jones - the three being himself, Richard Jones and drummer Stuart Cable, who passed away in 2010. “After that the band got bigger and busier and I was writing whenever I could, on the bus, in a hotel or whatever.”

In a true return to form, Graffiti On The Train showcases Jones’s brilliant way with a yarn. This time round, much of it is imagined, but it was largely inspired by a real-life event. “It was summer 2010 and we were touring a lot and doing festivals, so I was at home a fair bit,” he explains. “I kept hearing footsteps on my roof when I was in bed. This one night I shouted out to them, ‘What the hell are you doing on my roof?’ and they said they were just trying to get to the railway line across the trees to spray graffiti on the trains.

“I got thinking about what they were doing, and why. I understand kids are bored out of their minds. We all want to find a way to express ourselves and leave our mark on the world, and I was lucky enough to have music.

Stereophonics plus Special Guests at The Dome, Doncaster on Monday