You know the feeling when you turn up at a gig, you’re aware the support act have started but you can’t hear a
thing until you open the door to the main room and then BANG! a wall of sound rips your eyebrows off and you jump out of your skin? Well, that’s how ‘Deep Down Happy’, the debut LP by Sports Team begins, with a burst of indie-pop noise, it’s almost like the record has started without you, such is the riotous immediacy that kicks off the sextet’s primary outing.
The London-via-Cambridge band have built themselves a feverish fanbase over the last couple of years, growing by a word of mouth hype and one that’s gained them a notoriety for being a wild live act. The six- headed indie band surge has been palpable, from playing shithole venues to two-thousand capacity rooms, but this hasn’t stopped them from staying in touch with their loyal devotees, notably via a WhatsApp group that tends to get out of hand quickly. Sports Teams have taken the stance of chronicling their steep ascent through ‘Deep Down Happy’, as vocalist Alex Rice states “It’s a short history of the last two years really, ending with the last show before all this happened at our local, The Nags Head.” By “all this”, Rice is referring to covid-19, which has halted the band’s touring schedule, along with every other musician across the world and everyone else that’s experiencing lockdown right now. Although ‘Deep Down Happy’ provides a cheeky, very English respite from rising death tolls, social distancing and the urge to gargle bleach* because, you know, if Trump says swill your mouth out with disinfectant, why not right?! (*Please do not do this – you will die!!).
Sports Team follow the lineage of some noteworthy English bands, namely Pulp, Blur, Kaiser Chiefs and Arctic Monkeys when it comes to social commentary and a colloquial turn of phrase. Equally, a little nudge and a wink towards something that’s quintessentially British, that will most likely go unnoticed by anyone outside of the little island that’s sandwiched between Ireland and mainland Europe, will generate a wry grin from anyone hailing from the UK (this writer included). The piss-taking on opener ‘Langard’ aimed at trust-fund babies is the first of many swipes at the establishment, whilst casting a playful, yet cynical view of all things Blighty. Vocalist/guitarist/chief-songwriter Rob Knaggs aims several jibes at the rich boys who can play at life because of mummy and daddy’s money “I wanna be a lawyer or someone who hunts foxes”. A very Englishness night out is then summarised “on the weekend he goes out for a bit to the Slug and Lettuce or Wetherspoons if that’s shit” you can almost taste the crap beer and the disdain of having to stomach another boozy sesh that ends in a drunken brawl. The group’s home-country narrative is bound together by a catchy indie pop that occasionally veers off into rockier climes, whilst taking in the tropes of post-punk or in the case of ‘Going Soft’, which according to the band is a hint at LP2, struts with a flamboyant rock-cabaret sass. This energetic sonic wall is where the sextet graffiti their own brand of social commentary, like ‘Camel Crew’, which has a go at art students. ‘The Races’ is Blur’s ‘Charmless Man’ and ‘Girls and Boys’ merged together find themselves in 2020. Rice can be heard yelping “he’ll never buy a drink / but he’ll let you know he can”. The rapid sprint of ‘Here’s The Thing’ is a jubilant bounce through obliviousness “discrimination doesn’t happen anymore” and “if you just close your eyes and everything’s alright” are the tip of the pissed off, cynical iceberg.
If Sports Team aren’t documenting a cheeky view of England, they set their sights on fleeting love or a longing for escape; ‘Kutcher’ is a quirky take on a relationship that’s not worked out but told via the medium of MTV Punk’d and its host Ashton Kutcher. “I just wanted to be your Demi Moore” before a long pause is punctuated by “but they’re not together anymore”. An indie wiggle with a dose of melancholy tells the story of someone wanting to pack their bags and disappear “you say you’re sick of the stress/you’re leaving here on Monday/moving to the country”. ‘Deep Down Happy’ is closed off by the queasy sounding ‘Stations of the Cross’ that quotes David Bowie “so ground control to Major Tom/What’s a boy to do” as Rice tells the story of his god fearing past “I was such a delicate child/I always said my prayers because I didn’t want to die”.
Two years in, Sports Team are promising rookies on the scene; you wouldn’t bet against them fighting it out in the big leagues by the time album two drops.
Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams