As irritating as it seemed at the time, a generation were raised on the earworm frivolity of Scouting for Girls. Now ten-years-old, is it time the piano-bashing buffoonery and bittersweet love odes deserved a little reappraisal? Sam Lambeth investigates.
Britpop, as it was deemed by the press, had two comings. When its original ascension came crashing down towards the end of the 1990s, British music scrambled around helplessly as bloated records like Be Here Now quickened the demise, and idiosyncratic students such as Gomez were given gold cards. In 2007, things were quite similar – the second wave of angular riffery was receding, groups like Kaiser Chiefs and Maximo Park were trying to keep their heads above water and the press looked to a new trend of band to usher in.
The era doesn’t have a name, but from the bands you’re about to read you can fathom out what kind of sound was dominating. The Feeling, The Hoosiers, Royworld… it was an era of blatant bombast, cheesy chords, juddering pianos and an unabashed admiration of all things ELO. This was also a time when Scouting for Girls, a Ruislip trio raised on R.E.M., began bombarding the airwaves.
Ten years later, it all seems like a dream, but SFG’s self-titled debut was something of a diamond in the rough. It was unconcerned with looking trendy or sleek. It was not afraid to wear its influences on its sleeves. Frontman / keyboardist Roy Stride knew he looked like he should have been driving a bin lorry. For all its derision, for all its overexposure and for its out-of-touch gaucheness, Scouting for Girls was honest and had heart. Ten years on, it is still far, far from a classic, but has a guilty pleasure-level of appreciation as well as some surprisingly strong hooks.
For a band that were a constant source of scorn from the press, things actually started quite well for SFG. Their debut single, ‘It’s Not About You’, garnered good reviews for its bittersweet guitar motif, impassioned chorus and earworm melodies. Its layers of emotion were more sensible and assured than what would follow. ‘She’s So Lovely’ still remains the band’s nadir, where even the shamelessness of the subject matter can’t save such shocking lyrics, and combine that with incessant airtime and you have a new band to hate.
Take that away from the equation and there were songs that didn’t push the envelope emotionally, but had enough depth in the catchiness to elevate them. ‘Elvis Ain’t Dead’ has a coy charm in its wistful contemplation on youthful naivety, while ‘Heartbeat’ sails on the right side of syrupy. Elsewhere, the song titles almost speak for themselves – ‘I’m Not Over You’, ‘I Need A Holiday’ – but beneath the lumpen piano thump are songs that are generic but genial, that aren’t concerned with overegging the pudding as much as hoping they added the right amount of sugar.
‘The Airplane Song’ suitably soars, even if it’s use of an airplane for lost love and emotions feels a tad Year 10 English, while Stride’s own favourite tune, ‘Keep On Walking’, has a lilting, jaded sigh that never once feels like a trudge. Like ‘It’s Not About You’, it shows Scouting for Girls can do serious as well as silly, making songs that rich with melodies.
2007 and 2008 saw SFG dominate the airwaves, and they’d return to the top once again two years later with the euphorically popular ‘This Ain’t A Love Song’ single. Their own fan club, The Wolfcubs, ensured they remained a favourite at most under-18s discos. They’re still going strong, and there are songs that have followed that still have the sparkle of old (see the bouncy melancholia of ‘Millionaire’, the energetic Britpop bash of ‘Still Thinking About You’ and the heartfelt ‘Love How It Hurts’), but ten years on their debut remains their eternal vindication.
Words by Sam Lambeth