As much as I enjoy writing about music, I understand the futility of the whole process. Why should I expect you to read 600 words about a band I don’t really want to listen to myself? I, like most people, only read the highest or lowest rated albums. Why is Funeral by Arcade Fire a 9.5? How exactly does an album receive a 0.5? These are the questions I want answered. Even then, unless it is a band I already enjoy, or it is a well-written review, I only stick around for a couple of paragraphs.
With that said, there are some albums you like, love even, that you want to spread the word on. An album that gets to the heart of what writing about music is all about. You can’t in good conscience give it a high rating because you know its flaws, its limitations, but it doesn’t stop you from enjoying it thoroughly. So, if you are still reading this, let me introduce you the Stands.
Hailing from Liverpool (home to Echo and the Bunnymen, Ladytron, and of course…A Flock of Seagulls), the Stands are a four piece who toiled until catching the ear of one Noel Gallagher, who booked them some studio time and helped them get signed. And like their benefactor, one listen to the Stands will immediately spark the referential name game. In their case, if you mention The Byrds, Neil Young, or Dylan, give yourself a gold star.
Like many of the bands from that bygone era, the Stands bridge the gap between rock, country, and folk into a seamless path, reminding everyone that they are in essence the same. “Outside your Door,” the album’s best track, typifies this confluence of styles; a rollicking honky tonk rhythm (complete with faux steel pedal bridge) banged out in a brisk 2 and Ã‚Â½ minutes as Howie Payne sings of stalking with a devilish grin on his face. When he delivers the title chorus, it is in an admission of guilt.
They have fun with genre archetypes (something talked about in music but done rarely) and create some interesting results. The same twanging that makes “It’s only everything you are” a morose lullaby turns “Here She Comes Again” into a top 40 Beach movie jingle just one track later. They aren’t rewriting the rules; they more or less play mix and match with them. The title track is a mellow mix of fan brushes, hard strumming, and harmonica delivered in a laissez-faire manner, like a band who have played the song countless times, completely confidant about every angle. When Payne begins the album by singing “I have waited so long,” you believe it.
Payne’s vocal mannerisms are reminiscent of Dylan, especially how he extends the last word in every phrase. I am sure it is purely coincidental. I also understand that it is difficult to express sarcasm in print. “When this River Rolls over you,” the bands breakout UK single, finds Payne slurring “Haven’t you heard, babe/how the speechless are storming the stage” as if he is bleeding all over the railroad. This track is the only true example of the band mining previous ground, and the fact that it was their first single gives their critics plenty of fuel.
The slow parts, also, drag a little too much. The folky dirge of “The Big Parade” brings the energy of the album to a complete stop. The track is endemic of the second half of the album, which meanders at times and doesn’t really settle down. The relaxed atmosphere that came across as arrogance early in the album now sounds like a group at the end of a two set all-nighter, performing only for 4 drunks, two waitresses, and a bartender.
They close the night out strong, however, Album closer, “The Way She does,” builds to a climatic bridge that bubbles with loose licks and light jazz drumming then explodes like a countrified “Take it or Leave it,” which serves as an apt description. Kings of Leon can hold onto the title of the “Southern Strokes,” they are derivative garbage; The Stands (like The Strokes) know the reference points and go somewhere else with them.