At the height of Brit-pop in 1996, few would have pegged the Bluetones as a band that would stick around for a decade, but persevere they have, weathering a fall from fashion around the time of their second album Return to the Last Chance Saloon, and then soldiering on through, building a loyal audience without ever really changing or registering on a pop culture radar. Just because they were out of the spotlight doesn't mean they were making bad music; it just meant that they had become a working band, slowly and steadily working on their craft through albums and tours. That steady work pays off on their fifth album, simply titled The Bluetones. Not that this 2006 record is different from what they've done before -- this is very close in spirit and sound to their 1996 debut, Expecting to Fly -- but they've stripped away the neo-Madchester flourishes of their early work and the artier dalliances of their turn-of-the-century records, leaving behind a good, straight-ahead guitar pop band. As always, the Bluetones' biggest asset is their sheer likeability -- they're a group of normal guys, something they celebrate on the funny, charming "Baby, Back Up" where they admonish a new girlfriend with "I thought you were cool, but you are just weird." And that's the Bluetones' appeal in a nutshell: they are neither weird nor cool, they are what they are -- a tuneful, unpretentious guitar pop band, and this album showcases them at their best. There are plenty of hooks and harmonies, jangly guitars and catchy choruses, all capturing the Bluetones' modest gifts at their very best. Even if it's not necessarily a record that's compelling, it's hard not to smile as it plays, and it's hard not to admire the fact that the Bluetones have stuck through the ups and downs in their career to become a thoroughly reliable, completely likeable guitar pop band -- particularly because there are far fewer of those in 2006 than there were in 1996.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine