“I’ve seen so much and I’ve grown so old,” Rhys Jones sings on No Hope, No Future, and though Good Shoes were hardly wizened at the time, he has a point: By the time the band delivered the follow-up to their brilliant debut album, Think Before You Speak, many of their bouncy, post-punk-inspired contemporaries had faded away. The feeling of being a hardened survivor informs almost every aspect of No Hope, No Future, from its stripped-down sound to its older and wiser outlook. Where Good Shoes seemed to have a frantic tug of war between cynicism and idealism on nearly every song on Think Before You Speak, the band’s jaded side wins out on this album, underscoring its title. However, No Hope, No Future’s songs aren’t so much nihilistic as they are realistic, from “I Know”’s shouty incredulity at the “moronic nature of humans in a group” to the way couples grow apart on “Times Change.” With this more mature viewpoint comes less sweetness in Good Shoes’ music, and the punk roots of their sound come to the fore. It’s no coincidence that the band produced this album themselves and recorded it in bedrooms and basements; this no-frills approach is a perfect match for the dose of reality these songs deliver. Even the album-opener “The Way My Heart Beats” -- which is the closest Good Shoes get to Think Before You Speak’s barrage of hooks and cheeky attitude -- has more muscle and less polish than it would have before. This sound works better when the band keeps the tempo brisk, as on the Devo-channeling “A Thousand Miles an Hour,” than it does on the dirge-like “Everything You Do,” an admirable attempt to embrace ambivalence that needs more color to really make an impact. While the band tries to relegate the spark and sparkle of Think Before You Speak to the background, it’s not gone entirely from No Hope, No Future. The witty basslines on “Do You Remember,” the fiery guitar work on “Our Loving Mother in a Pink Diamond,” and the slinky dance-punk of “Under Control” prove that Good Shoes can’t completely quash their pop leanings. They even leave a little room for hope at the end of the album with “City by the Sea,” a gruff love song that rhymes the title with “sounds pretty shit to me.” No Hope, No Future doesn’t always play to the band’s proven strengths, but it shows that Good Shoes are a thoroughly independent, even contrary band that's unafraid of change, even when it’s difficult.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares