Sports Team are a London-based six piece indie rock outfit, who formed while all studying at the University of Cambridge in 2016, and in four years they’ve been kicking up a hell of a fuss in the indie scene. After a slew of singles over the past few years, their debut album, Deep Down Happy, was released to the world. If you’ve even glanced at social media over the past week or so, you are guaranteed to have been subjected to Sports Team’s relentless promotional campaign. They were neck and neck with Lady Gaga for the number one spot in the charts, and just missed out. I can’t fault the effort.
Opening things up, the track ‘Lander’ is a brief, straight-up indie rock cut. Noisy drums, a heavy bassline and some decent guitar work drives the song forward, with frontman Alex Rice half speaking/half shouting some lyrics about being British (the generic indie rock ingredients are starting to show themselves). It sounds like if Will Toldeo and Hobo Johnson started jamming after listening to Blur’s Parklife. It isn’t a bad song by any stretch, but ‘Lander’ truly drowns in its influences, an issue that crops up a fair bit over the course of DDH, even in the context of this LP being Sport's Team's debut. Despite this, ‘Lander’ is definitely a highlight on the album, but I don’t know if that’s a good thing.
Swiftly followed by lead single ‘Here It Comes Again’, in all honesty I did a double take, thinking The Magic Gang’s ‘Getting Along’ had come on shuffle. The guitar work on this track is the highlight, but I struggle to enjoy it due to Alex Rice’s irritating delivery and the lack of a notable hook. ‘Here It Comes Again’ plods along, showing little variation throughout the runtime. ‘Going Soft’ falls into the same category, repeating the classic Pixies ‘quiet, loud’ song structure. Rice’s vocals are a lot better on this one, but loses any uniqueness and ends up sounding like literally any other indie singer from the mid 2000s. ‘Going Soft’ would have fit in nicely on The Inbetweeners soundtrack, which goes to show how mid 2000s this album really is. Dark fruits twitter may well love it, but a great deal of the album seems to have arrived fifteen years too late.
After this, we begin the filler section. ‘Camel Crew’, ‘Long Hot Summer’, ‘Feels Like Fun’ and ‘Here’s The Thing’ kind of blurred together for me, with nothing standing out. Once again it just feels like another run-of-the-mill indie record. ‘Camel Crew’ was originally released in 2018, and just seems lazy to throw two-year-old song on the album. If it was an excellent track, then fair enough (spoilers: its okay). The album version is considerably better, but that’s literally just a result of re-tracking, remixing and remastering.
Right, good bits. The bass riff on ‘The Races’ is heavy and brooding, and this track seems to give a very slight punk undertone. And I think Rice’s vocal delivery would work excellently over some more punk/post punk instrumentals. Some of the guitar tones on ‘The Races’ are really crisp, and the drone-style noisy guitars hovering in the background really fill out the texture of this track. Another big thumbs up is the mix. This album sounds really great. Tones are spot on for the genre, the drums are big without being overpowering and the splashes of distortion on the vocals really give it an edge.
Overall, Deep Down Happy is a decent debut. The tracks are fun and bouncy, oozing attitude and energy from every corner of the record. However I just can’t get over how much influence is audible throughout this thing. The band have clearly listened to a lot of Car Seat Headrest, Hobo Johnson, The Magic Gang, and The Wombats (among others) during the creation of this record. Lyrically, Sports Team are clearly aiming for early Arctic Monkeys’ witty storytelling, but Sports Team could only dream of rivalling their idolised predecessors. It seems like Sports Team’s game plan is to be as arrogant as Oasis, and write as many safe, generic indie tunes as humanly possible. Mainstream indie fans will lap this up for sure, but for anyone looking for something fresh, unique and new, you should probably look elsewhere.
- 5.0 -
James Mellen is a very bored student in his final year of compulsory education, waiting to study music production and performance at degree level. He is passionate about music, guitars and music. He also watches films sometimes.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based in South Wales