by John Lau
I must admit, I was slightly apprehensive when I was asked to compile a review of the current offering from Some Other Guys up at St Andrews – apart from being invited by one of their number to be a contributor on this very blog, I have had no other contact with any of The Other Guys, nor have I ever seen them perform live or heard much of their material prior to this album – I do not usually go for all-male groups. However, I went in with an open mind, and even just looking at the track list and starting to listen to the first of the ten musical numbers that comprise the album, I knew that my opinion of all-male a cappella was about to be changed.
In general terms, this album is a pretty faultless production from the eleven male students at the University of St Andrews, which is quite unsurprising considering they enlisted the services of Overboard for the purposes of mixing and editing and also Diovoce for mastering the album, both of whom are based across the pond.
Although it is Track #4 on the album, I cannot start anywhere else other than the cover of Lady GaGa’s “Bad Romance”, the video of which went ‘viral’ after it was rearranged in time for the Royal Wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William in April 2011, who coincidentally (or ironically, dependant on one’s point of view) met at the same university as the Guys. While it did attract some much deserved publicity for the group, including breakfast appearances on both sides of the Atlantic and concerts at their own University and Fettes College in Edinburgh, it did not quite reach the public domain quite as much as Out of the Blue’s credible performance on Britain’s Got Talent later in the year, although perhaps deserved to. The track itself brings a smile to my face, just as it did when I first saw the video on Five News whilst channel hopping one evening in April.
As far as repertoires go, it appears that These Other Guys have a rather wide range of artists whose works have been rearranged from the originals: witness back in the day artists such as Stealers Wheel whose track “Stuck In The Middle” was written all those moons ago, and Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine”, through to recent tracks from Mrs Russell Brand and Cee Lo, but the personal favourites here are the relative mellowness of “Skinny Love” and the Guys reworking of “Gangsta’s Paradise” to become “Golfer’s Paradise” in their own little homage to the town that has bought all eleven Guys together; I just had to laugh when I heard the latter. I would also like to highly commend the entire group for penning the lyrics to “The Lazy Student Song”, as it took me back to my own days of studying between 1998 and 2003 – I had quite a few days when I didn’t ‘feel like doing anything’ back then.
I must also credit The Guys for donating much of the album’s profits to the charity fund set up in honour of Will and Kate at St Andrews University – it is a grand gesture in the modern day financial times, where every last penny is so valuable.
Barely Regal is an offering that has put The Other Guys on a pedestal in terms of status, but whether they can further capitalise on the success of the video and this album in the future, especially when up against the growing reputation of several other collegiate groups in Scotland and the rest of the UK, remains to be seen.
As a stand alone record, however, this album is well worth the second listen. Or a third. Or a twentieth.