Stickup Kid

Future Fire

Written by: TL on 05/01/2014 18:23:53

Around this time last year, one of my chief regrets in the world of reviewing was that I didn't find time to write about Stickup Kid's "The Depths Of Me" EP. The San Jose quartet's debut album from the year before, "The Sincerest Form Of Flattery", struck me as a vastly under-appreciated record in a scene for pop-punk bands that took their lyrical anger out on unfaithful girls and unappreciative surroundings, partly because it stayed raw while elegantly imitating a plethora of respectable punk-rock influences in the process. I aim to make amends though, with this "better late than never" write-up about the band's sophomore album "Future Fire", which dropped back in July.

If you listened to Stickup Kid before, you'll be surprised when you pop on "Future Fire", because while "Flattery" was delightfully confident in being punk-rock and fast as fuck, opening song "Lost" gets things started on a mellow, contemplative note here. Stickup Kid has clearly grown a more reflective side, starting the album with a verse about reluctantly falling into a relationship and a situation that ends up in disappointment and discomfort that the rest of the record deals with, with the band spending somewhat more time in the thoughtful gear than they do in the full-throttle mode of their last album.

Like on "Flattery" though, the band respectfully includes nods to their influences throughout "Future Fire"'s arrangements. Overall the album seems written from a similarly frustrated place as the earlier songs on Saves The Day's "Daybreak", where you don't know whether to hold on or move on, and it's coated in a similarly deceitful, poppy tone where only singer Tony Geravesh's lyrics really reveal his turmoil: "I've been broken so many times I'm scared I won't get up again /If I'm open like the ocean, you'll drown before you ever reach the depths of me" he sings in track two, "The Depths Of Me", right after "Lost" has opened with "I felt something worthwhile /That I haven't felt for years and I'm afraid /I just can't settle down /It's just not my style".

These second thoughts foreshadow "What's Missing", which has Geravesh already on his way out the door by track three, and which thrives on a moody guitar line that really anchors the "Daybreak" comparison as far as I'm concerned. This song's mid-paced tempo also leads into the two following tracks which are the album's highlights in my opinion. "Good People In A Place I Hate" and "Keeping My Distance" both compare to Misser (and through them channel Stickup Kid's Californian forebears Third Eye Blind). Both numbers contrast a bouncy melodiousness with down-beat lyricism in a way that really recalls 3EB frontman Stephan Jenkins' unique talent, before eventually letting their frustration find release in small, delicious climaxes towards their ends.

By track five then, "Future Fire" is on its way towards being a pretty stellar album, only really lacking those couple of super-hooks that really close the bargain and put it up for End Of The Year list consideration (if it wasn't too late for that now that is). Sadly, the attempted Jimmy Eat World-ness of the upcoming pairing "Through The Night" and "Gotten Away" - which rest on hypnotic bass notes and lullaby-ish guitar scales at tracks seven and eight - isn't quite as successfully resolved. Geravesh, whose typically sharp delivery and great enuncation really fit the higher, faster parts, simply doesn't quite manage the same enchantingly tender presence in his softer delivery, the kind of which one inevitably is reminded of upon hearing how these vaguely resemble Jim Adkins songs, and sadly, the intended urgency and catharsis feels a bit drawn out as an effect.

It's a clear sign of how things fit together oddly here, when the album then starts back up, proclaims "This Is Over" resolutely before calling the ex-lover while "Wasted", only to finally leave her for good aided by a "Tailwind". This defect however, is of the nature you notice mainly because the album overall has so much going for it that you're sort of expecting it to be a masterpiece, and hence get a bit disappointed when it isn't quite there yet. The songwriting is extremely solid the whole way through, and the sound is both unique and diverse, and overall the record feels to me like The Wonder Years' "The Upsides", which had all sorts of promising ingredients going but just couldn't quite get the mix right the way the band's two following releases did. If you'd like to hear an album however, which is similarly cohesive thematically and engagingly dynamic, while at the same time a bit more down-to-earth lyrically, then you should take the time to delve into this one, perhaps joining me in hoping that these guys could have the West Coast's version of "Suburbia, I've Given You All" coming up in the near future.

8

Download: Good People In A Place I Hate, Keeping My Distance, The Depths Of Me
For The Fans Of: Misser, Saves The Day, Third Eye Blind, The Wonder Years, Jimmy Eat World
Listen: facebook.com/stickupkidca

Release Date 09.07.2013
Adeline Records

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