Tasteful enough to soundtrack your local’s Sunday roast, yet too arch to ever fall in with a Mumford, Marthas & Arthurs shun the fashionable folkies and extend the blood line of Brit cynics from Half Man Half Biscuit to Stuart Murdoch and Morrissey.
While occasionally sounding like they should be singing about maypoles or bushes and briars, these nine songs actually deal with a thoroughly modern cast.
Witness the fish-loving frizzly-haired Al Jazeera anchor of ‘Diamonds Between Her Thighs’, or the gorgeous Terry and June-referencing heartbreaker ‘Meantime’.
It doesn’t always work. The skiffle-flavoured ‘Used Up All My Aces’ is a bit clumsy in its card-playing analogy, more Chris de Burgh’s ‘Spanish Train’ than Dylan’s ‘Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts’. Elsewhere, ‘Backwards Blackberries’ tries and fails to do for fiddles what The Stone Roses’ ‘Don’t Stop’ did for jangly guitars.
But then they give us ‘Rosa Lee’, a moody atmospheric ballad that recalls Grizzly Bear Daniel Rossen’s best efforts. Block harmonies and an acoustic guitar keep it anchored, simple and sincere, while a piano chimes like Satie and a mournful trumpet solo steals the show.
All in all, ‘More International Hits’ is less jet-set and more country fair; a Penguin classic and Panda Pop on the village green, wishing away the rain. I can think of worse ways to soundtrack the spring.