Even if you’ve never heard of The Boy Least Likely To, you most probably have one or two of their songs already lodged in your subconscious. Since releasing their debut album back in 2005, the duo have had tracks placed in more films, TV shows and commercials than most groups could wish for and this seventeen song best-of collection makes it easy to see why the band have such universal appeal. Musically, TBLLT are the sound of childhood, innocence and optimism in a world where a thirty second news broadcast can quite easily toss even the chirpiest among us into an abyss of depression.
Since forming in 2002, the duo of Jof Owen and Peter Hobbs have honed a signature toytown sound, which bubbles over with banjos, recorders, guiros and glockenspiels across four full-length LPs. A plausible (but sadly untrue) backstory could be that the pair have spent the last decade and a half locked in a primary school music cupboard and have released records via an underground network of tunnelling magic elves but no, they’re simply two guys from Buckinghamshire who make the kind of music you might hear on a CBeebies link. On closer inspection, however, it’s clear that the band have retained a good level of artistic credibility amidst all the plink and plunk. The songs go deeper than their candied veneer would suggest; from the self-awareness of tracks like ‘Hugging My Grudge’ and ‘Climbing Out Of Love’ to the open misanthropy of ‘Monsters’, which reveals a loathing for the great unwashed and the smug conformist alike.
The Boy Least Likely To’s playful sonic world doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty in the way of genuine tenderness on offer here. ‘Be Gentle With Me’ and ‘It Could’ve Been Me’ (with lead vocals shared with Gwenno) score highly on the heartbreakometer while the philosophical ‘Michael Collins’ is a DeLorean ride back to every child’s wide-eyed and dreamy youth. On the more pumping side of things, the downright disco of ‘One Of These Days’ and the fuzzed groove of brand new song ‘Follow Your Heart Somewhere’ demonstrate the pair’s equal deftness in penning solid dancefloor tunage. The band’s penchant for classic pop also manifests itself both in the banjo-drenched cover of George Michael’s ‘Faith’ and its companion piece ‘George and Andrew’ - a bromanticised Wham-based fable, laid over harmony and drums that pay dangerously close homage to mega-hit ‘Last Christmas’.
The Boy Least Likely To have an easy way with pop melodies and smart lyrics, recalling the quirky genius of Ben Folds, The Wannadies and Owl City but their unhidden Englishness also puts them in line with the likes of Nizlopi and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly. This look back at their career so far more than justifies the role that The Boy Least Likely To have already played in the pop culture of the last decade and is a fantastic entry point for all latecomers to the (best) party (ever).
Review by Rich Barnard.
The Boy Least Likely To - The Greatest Hits is released November 30th via Young and Stupid.
The band will be playing some very special Christmas greatest hits shows at Rough Trade East (Dec 7th), Rough Trade Bristol (Dec 5th) and Rough Trade Nottingham (Dec 6th) to coincide with the release of the album.