Just from the first glance at the album cover, there’s something familiar about Hooton Tennis Club’s debut. Having listened to this album a number of times now, there’s also something familiar about its sound, its feel, its tone.
A few songs in, and it starts to become obvious that this Merseyside four piece are well versed in the history of four piece guitar pop. A little bit powerpop, a little bit lo-fi, Hooton Tennis Club are not too precious to wear their influences on their sleeves. Highest Point In Cliff Town is an album in the grand tradition of guitar pop albums, remaining accessible enough to not scare the uninitiated off, but also smart enough to be just apart enough from the crowd to stand out.
Hooton Tennis Club seem to have grasped that which is too often forgotten with debut albums – it is a first step, a show of potential rather than a fully formed talent with no potential to grow. Highest Point In Cliff Town sounds like four individuals coming together to simply play music, rather than to execute some great pre-planned tilt at global chart domination, and that’s a really smart move. This is the sound of a young act comfortable with the fact that this is just their first album (of hopefully many), and realising that they don’t have to over-stretch themselves in an attempt to try and convince everyone that they’re inevitably going to be the next big thing. At this stage in their career Hooton Tennis Club just need to display the fact that they have some catchy tunes (job done on the strength of Highest Point In Cliff Town), can impress on the live stage (as well as hitting the festivals this summer, they’re touring throughout September, October and November) and leave enough room for potential creative growth on their second album.
There’s plenty of youthful exuberance on display throughout Highest Point In Cliff Town, from the occasionally playful song titles (“Something Much Quicker Than Anyone But Jennifer Could Ever Imagine”, “…And Then Camilla Drew Fourteen Dots On Her Knee”, etc), to the fizzy guitar sounds that recall the likes of Big Star, Teenage Fanclub and The Posies, to indicate that as Hooton Tennis Club mature, their sound will inevitably evolve over time. Good, that’s what all great acts are supposed to do.
Hooton Tennis Club’s enthusiastic take on powerpop should see them impress during festival season, so ensuring that their tour throughout the autumn consolidates their success, as those festival goers that they have impressed will take their friends and loved ones when they play locally, thus expanding their audience in a natural, organic and very traditional way.
Oh, and that album cover? A very similar colour palette to XTC’s Drums and Wires, don’t you think?
Highest Point In Cliff Town is released on 28 August on Heavenly Recordings.