The Boy Least Likely To – The Law of the Playground [Review]

lawoftheplaygroundmain1 Multi-instrumentalist Pete Jobbs and vocalist Jof Owen are the duo behind The Boy Least Likely To – the infectious twee-pop band that spawned the single “Be Gentle With Me.” Their 2005 debut, The Best Party Ever, was a look into childhood through the eyes of two men who seemingly don’t want to grow up. It was a charming affair with catchy melodies, silly lyrics, and all-around good fun. Nearly four years later, Jobbs and Owen are back with The Law of the Playground.

The Boy Least Likely To’s sophomore album takes a much darker approach to childhood innocence than their previous effort. Owen’s fears of isolation, not fitting in, and rejection manifest themselves in songs such as “A Balloon on a Broken String” (I know I look shiny and bouncy but I’m all empty inside and I worry that if I were to burst suddenly then nobody would even notice me), “The Boy With Two Hearts,” and “I Keep Myself to Myself” (The world is full of boxes that I don’t fit in). It’s songs like these that show how Owen has progressed – it’s as if The Best Party Ever was written on Owen’s first day of second grade, when he was full of wonder, curiosity, and optimism while The Law of the Playground came into being after Owen had his heart broken during recess in fourth grade when little Suzy refused to go out with him. He may be slightly bitter, but he still wants to have fun.

And just because Owen has grown up a bit doesn’t mean he can’t right goofy lyrics about puppies and nice summer days. The songs “Whiskers” and “When Life Gives Me Lemons I Make Lemonade” off nice relief from the relatively darker themes of other songs. Either song could easily have been a b-side to The Best Party Ever. The lyrics are still as simple and effective as ever – it’s often surprising just how effective the lyrics are given Owen’s word choice. The myriad of instruments used by Jobbs, from banjos to xylophones to full brass bands, complement Owen’s voice nicely, often providing such upbeat melodies as to distract the listener from exactly what is being sung. Overall, this album is much stronger than their debut, but I can’t help feeling that they’re trying too hard to cling on to that twee-pop sound that garnered them so much attention in the first place.

8/10
Record Label: Rough Trade Records
Release Date: March 9th, 2009
Tracklisting:
01 Saddle Up
02 Balloon On A Broken String
03 When Life Gives Me Lemons I Make Lemonade
04 I Box Up All The Buterflies
05 The Boy With Two Hearts
06 Stringing Up Conkers
07 The Boy Least Likely To Is A Machine
08 Whiskers
09 Every Goliath Has Its David
10 The Nature Of The Boy Least Likely To
11 I Keep Myself To Myself
12 The Worm Forgives The Plough
13 A Fairytale Ending

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