The Holloways

No Smoke, No Mirrors

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Always the most jovial of the plethora of ramshackle guitar bands that emerged in the mid-noughties, Brighton-based four-piece the Holloways' sunny disposition has been seriously tested recently thanks to a legal dispute with their U.S. label and a fire that destroyed both their equipment and rehearsal space. Despite these setbacks, their happy-go-lucky nature remains firmly intact, as evident on their second album, No Smoke, No Mirrors, which like its predecessor, 2007's So This Is Great Britain?, blends exuberant punk-pop, ska-tinged indie, and a cavalcade of tropical melodies and rhythms to produce a relentlessly uplifting set of pogo-inducing summer party anthems. Brimming with optimism, the likes of lead single "Jukebox Sunshine," a jaunty fusion of plinky-plonky pizzicato strings, shimmering percussion, and infectious "whoa-whoas," the sun-soaked Brit-pop of "Alcohol," an ode to the perils of weekend excesses whose joyful guitar riffs bear an uncanny resemblance to Katrina & the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine," and the faux-calypso leanings of "Under a Cloud" all wouldn't sound out of place at Notting Hill Carnival. Slightly counteracting the feel-good vibes are the album's regular swipes at the establishment (the crisp indie pop of "Sinners n' Winners," the eco-themed "Little Johnny Went to Parliament") and its fascination with the mundaneness of British life such as rubbish TV (the banjo-led folky "Public Service Broadcast"), the public obsession with celebrity (the driving opening number "AAA"), and disrespectful youths on public transport (the bouncy 2 Tone of "On the Bus"). But other than the slow-burning closer "Knock Me Down," a mournful string-soaked ballad featuring occasional bursts of operatic rock, its 11 tracks are all instilled with the same kind of cheeky-chappy persona that made Top 20 single "Generator" such a bona fide indie disco classic. No Smoke, No Mirrors isn't the most original of affairs, with quite obvious traces of the Libertines, Jamie T, and Blur, just to name a few, but it would take a hard-hearted indie fan to not warm to its refreshingly optimistic and jubilant brand of playful guitar pop.

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