Sports Team - ‘Gulp!’ review: cocky, heartfelt indie anthems

Sports Team – ‘Gulp!’ review: cocky, heartfelt indie anthems


To a generation of kids, Sports Team were the first band that made guitar music look fun and accessible; their debut album ‘Deep Down Happy’ celebrated everyday life in all its mundanity. Others dismissed them as loud-mouthed “indie funsters” but it didn’t stop them getting shortlisted for the Mercury Prize in 2020, headlining Brixton Academy or leading a gleeful assault on the UK Album Charts (they were pipped at the post by Lady Gaga’s ‘Chromatica’).

The stage was very much set for a classic ‘difficult second album’ and Sports Team knew it well. It’s there in the cartoonish name (‘Gulp!’ describes “the moment you hope you stay suspended” in mid-air, they say) and throughout the recording process: the band dabbled with string sections and even had an appearance from Jools Holland to help them flex their musical abilities, before leaving it on the cutting room floor. Of course, then, the album’s original release date earlier this summer was scuppered due to “production delays”.

If there was any pressure though, it can’t be heard on ‘Gulp!’ which is a cocky, self-assured record that blends Sports Team’s chaotic energy with a smart, heartfelt understanding of the power of guitar music. Opener ‘The Game’ is a ferocious slab of scuzzy guitars and big singalong moments, ‘The Drop’ bounces between boisterous urgency and swaying refrain. ‘R Entertainment’, meanwhile, is a swaggering, explosive number that’s going to see countless, half-finished pints launched into the air.

It’s not all expected carnage though as ‘Gulp!’ does away with the coming-of-age determination of ‘Deep Down Happy’ and explores the anxiety of what comes next. There’s death, despair and more than one existential crisis. The jaunty ‘Getting Better’ inspires a lust for life despite morbid lyrics: “they put you in the garden under six old feet of dirt/and the worms are singing love songs and the birds are saying grace”. The garage rock riot of ‘Fingers’ hits back at keyboard warriors, while the warped close of ‘Light Industry’ pleas for renewal with the band done with “another cup of exactly the same.”

Through it all, Sports Team are just trying to have a good time. It’s a relatable sentiment given these times, and whether it’s the escapism of the live show or their communal spirit, ‘Gulp!’ sees the band continue to build something to believe in.

Details

  • Release date: September 23, 2022
  • Record label: Island




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