In the ever expanding indie-rock scene, more and more bands are committed to the essence of revival; Smith Westerns have incorporated 80s glam rock and Brit pop into their sophomore effort, Dye It Blonde; Tennis has brought 50s doo-wop/girl groups back to life; Bands like Best Coast and Wavves indulge in 60s surf pop; White Lies craft tunes that sound a lot like Depeche Mode. And then we have the somewhat overlooked nineties, a.k.a. the dawn of alternative rock, and the cornerstone bands (think Neutral Milk Hotel, Pavement) that made indie rock a prominent genre. While the latter are constantly being referenced by independent outfits, there seems to be a decline of indie rock groups swayed by the alternative rock formula.
Among the few bands out there that bring forth audibly vivacious 90’s jams like Dinosaur Jr.’s Farm or R.E.M.’s upcoming Collapse Into Now, not many blend today’s contemporary indie rock with alternative pop from that decade without the lo-fi and distortion, or growing experimentalist fixation and electronic enthusiasm. Not many have put out just that good ol’, classic alternative album that could sit on the shelves alongside Foo Fighters’ The Colour And The Shape and Green Day’s Nookie, but could just as easily fit beside recent LPs like Surfer Blood’s Astro Coast or Harlem’s Hippies. Enter Lucky Stabb, a sprawling foursome out of Kitchener, Ontario, whose debut album conceives the very notion of alternative rock, but with a modern tinge that makes for a very likable batch of songs.
There is a small percentage of artists out there who can create mainstream music, but still be beloved by hipsters and indie-kids everywhere (Kanye West anyone?). Cold War Kids had massive appeal in the indie scene with their first two records, but couldn’t satisfy their loyal fans while trying to appeal to a larger audience with their most recent, Mine Is Yours. Lucky Stabb, on the other hand, allure to all, and they do it so carelessly and nonchalantly that they make it seem easy. Some members of the band have been playing together since high school, and it’s easy to hear the consistency and gracefulness in their music. Their debut effort, It’s Now Or Later, is an impressive one, enlisting a certain amount of pop merged with a boisterous heap of rock that doesn’t sound forced. It reminds you of a time when bands could rock out and wouldn’t worry whether their music wasn’t different enough, a time when you just wanted to produce some awesome rock jams and call it a day.
The tunes found on It’s Now Or Later are rowdy and uncontrollably fist-pumping, but they are also surprisingly radio accessible, from the smooth vibes of “Compliments” to rock ‘n’ roll anthem “Not The Girl”. Thanks to lead vocalists Marco Pedrosa and Treason Van Arch, there’s a degree of Southern-tinged raspiness apparent, but also heaps of polished, unadulterated expression. They sing about heartache and drugs, sex and anxiety. They move from lovely guitar ballads to angry assertiveness, and they can do it all in one song (see album closer “Draws Me Near”). Fan favorite “Sever” chronicles an emotionally violent relationship that continues in an ongoing cycle of cynicism and desperation. As such, Lucky Stabb go batshit crazy in one moment, and love you the next. The band has a wide range of influences, from Dead Kennedys and The Smiths, to Elliot Smith and Dead Prez. On the disc’s only laid-back ballad, “Thunder Ceilings”, you can hear Pedrosa’s interest in John Frusciante’s ambient guitar gazing. It’s a wonderful reminder of a seemingly lost 90s aesthetic.
“What has improved since the ’90s really?” Van Arch asked in a recent chat. “Most of the current radio bands sound like weak versions of good mid-90s bands. So much has changed in the age of mp3s, and success is spread pretty thin now. But the nineties were the new 1960s, as far as musical significance is concerned, in nearly every popular genre.” This all seems to hold true, and listening to It’s Now Or Later‘s friendly, balls to the wall attitude is representative of that alternative pop rock we all grew to love at one point or another. This young foursome of Van Arch, Pedrosa, lead guitarist Paul Lipton, and drummer Adrian Bos are a band deserving of praise, lost in a world-wide whirlwind of ’80s nostalgia and obscure throwbacks.
Lucky Stabb are currently working on a sophomore effort, heading towards a more “psychedelic jazz/punk direction,” if their recent jams are any indication. Their debut can be purchased on iTunes, or found on their label’s official website (Fauxtown Records). One listen to any track on It’s Now Or Later, and you’ll recognize that they are totally worth it.
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