by Hugh Platt
If there’s one word that sums up the new album from Lostprophets, then it’s “firm”. The Betrayed isn’t going to convert legions of new fans to the Welsh crew’s fanbase, nor is it going to see their existing acolytes desert them either – it’s going to buoy them along in the same manner they’ve been used to since Liberation Transmission.
To the end, The Betrayed makes no attempt to hide the more overt indications of its inspirations – and it says much for Lostprophets stadium-sized ambitions who the subjects of those influences are. The shadows of Muse’s fret-harmonizing dribble off lead single ‘It’s Not The End Of The World But I Can See It From Here’, while the opening bars of the atrociously-titled ‘Next Stop, Atro City’ could’ve been lifted wholesale from Placebo’s ‘Brick Shithouse’. While Ian Watkins’ performance on ‘Where We Belong’ masks it somewhat with the speed of his speed, it’s unmistakably a Welsh cousin to U2’s ‘With Or Without You’, complete with a crowd-pleasing crescendo in the final minutes that seems pre-destined to become “that song” – the one that Lostprophets crowds will find themselves singing the final moments of to a band standing onstage doing nothing but wearing the biggest shit-eating grins a bunch of boys from the valleys ever did sport.
The mean-spirited will attribute this as an indicator that Lostprophets struggled to generate sufficient volumes of their own creative ideas for this record; the stories of scrapped sessions with Bob Rock, and whole albums’ worth of material being binned suggest recording The Betrayed was anything but an effortless process for the band. Erring on the side of generosity though, it could be interpreted as a strength – Lostprophets have, after all, absorbed these musical nods and note-taking, and worked them into a cohesive album that manages to feel familiar from the first listen. As the band have been all too ready to point out previously, writing a hit song isn’t easy (otherwise everyone would be at it) and The Betrayed is certainly easy to digest.
If there’s a weakest link in The Betrayed then it comes from Lostprophets’ ever vocal figurehead, Ian Watkins. No, we’re not talking about those Americanised vowels of his either. They’re still there, yes, but if you’re not used to them after a decade then there’s little hope for you.
So shut up, and let’s move on.
No, the issue with Watkins this time around isn’t with his delivery, but with what he’s serving up. You suspect Watkins sees his lyricism as barbed, when in fact it pricks with all the ire and sneer of a housecat absent-mindedly pawing at your lap after you’ve fallen asleep in front of the TV. Even when he’s scoffing at detractors, it’s just a little bit cosy. ‘Dstryr/Dstryr’ might be musically wired up the same as RATM circa-The Battle Of Los Angeles, but when the LP frontman starts wailing “Destroyer, Destroyer. Religion needs a new employer!”, I defy any listeners not to find themselves undergoing a facepalm moment – and that’s just one of many.
Watch the video to ‘It’s Not The End Of The World But I Can See It From Here’ by Lostprophets
There’s been a notable and noticeable push from both the ‘prophets and their label for The Betrayed – like so much about this album, it’s clear that everyone involved cares very much that it is a success, and they’ve put in a lot of effort to make sure it is one. They certainly hit the press trail harder than they did with Liberation Transmission – but back then, did they even need to? For all that album’s alleged deliberately-constructed pop-metal cynicism, as a finished product, it felt like a band finding their spot and excelling in it.
The Betrayed, in comparison, sees Lostprophets on a plateau. Finding themselves against the commercial glass ceiling, all that’s left to them is to keep pounding at it in the hope that they land the right song in the right place to shatter it. But that song isn’t on The Betrayed – a record that suggests perhaps that Lostprophets might not have it left in them at all.
Sounds like: a band that’s got where they want to be and don’t know where to go next – and 30 Seconds To Mars
Top track: It’s Not the End of the World, But I Can See It from Here
Lostprophets – The Betrayed tracklisting
If It Wasn’t for Hate, We’d Be Dead by Now
It’s Not the End of the World, But I Can See It from Here
Where We Belong
Next Stop, Atro City
For He’s a Jolly Good Felon
A Better Nothing
Streets of Nowhere
Dirty Little Heart
The Light That Shines Twice as Bright…