McFly are surfing on a wave of borrowed riffs, and quite right too
by Richard Banks
27 July 2004
Just over 40 years ago, The Shadows first picked up their electric guitars. Soon after, The Beatles followed suit and the British band as we know it was born. Two guitars, one bass, one drummer, and the rest is pop-rock history.
And then in the late 90s, post-Britpop, the major labels unleashed their weapon of mass destruction: the vocal harmony group. Today, having churned out boy band after girl band after boy band to little avail, they needed something fresh to sell to the kids. And what did they come up with? Busted. A bunch of young guys that play guitar and bass in front of an oddly-anonymous drummer. Genius. But it's not exactly rock science, is it?
Enter McFly, with their debut album Room On The Third Floor. But where their mentors, Busted, have remoulded the fresh putty of American pop-punk into something that still sounds new, McFly's influences are ancient in comparison, making the end product sound rather retrospective.
But that's not to say it's a bad record.
Already home to two striking chart-toppers ('Five Colours in Her Hair' and 'Obviously'), 'Surfer Babe' could easily be a third. The unmistakable summertime blues of the Beach Boys' 'Fun Fun Fun' flows through the album's veins (see 'Saturday Night' and 'Down By The Lake') and to many youthful ears this will no doubt sound just as good as it did in the 60s.
Elsewhere, McFly resurrect that Chuck Berry riff for the intro to 'That Girl', adapt the bassline from 'Blister In The Sun' on 'Met This Girl', and, rather cheekily, use Madness' 'It Must Be Love' for their album-closer, 'Broccoli'.
Lyrically, Room On The Third Floor is a bit hit-and-miss. For every moment of cheeky adolescent innocence ("she's getting married and I'm in misery cos her fiancé's so much bigger than me") there's a worn-out cliché that no amount of co-writing with James Busted could cover up ("when she walks in the room, my heart goes boom").
For the time being, then, McFly are surfing on a wave of borrowed riffs, and quite right too; firstly, because that's how you get yourself noticed in today's pop market, and secondly, because the riffs they've borrowed are some of the best ever written.
Just remember boys, it's all fun fun fun until the label takes your T-Bird away.