Mar 11, 2012

Stubb - S/T ...

Oh how I love the power-trio format and here is a band from London that are a classic example of three guys doing the work that some 5 or even 6 member bands try to do and fail. Stubb are a 70's inspired heavy rock trio, fuzzed out, groovy and infectious as can be, churning out tunes that would be considered timeless classics now if they had have been released circa 1972. This band featuring Jack Dickinson (guitar, lead vocals), Peter Holland (bass, backing vocals) and Chris West (drums) are all about volume-worshipping, distortion and Hendrix inspired grooves mixed with the classic heavy rock sounds of bands like Budgie, Mountain, and Blue Cheer. West and Holland are also members of the well-respected London outfit Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight. For the most part, Stubb have a traditional British flavor to them - harking back to an era when guitar playing was all about flash and style. This self-titled album was mixed and mastered by Tony Reed (Stone Axe, Mos Generator) and he has done a remarkable job of capturing the band without much in the way of overdubs or studio trickery. In fact, this pretty much sounds like a live band captured on tape in all its glory.

From the outset, it is obvious that the band is all about blistering riff work with large amounts of wah-wah, throbbing bass lines, and being immensely catchy while remaining raw at all times. These songs combine all the best facets of 70's heavy rock - the big riffs, trippy, psychedelic interludes, jammy passages, and melodies. From the opening track, 'Road' with all its arena-rock anthemic riffing mixed with psychedelic-rock self-indulgence, the album automatically grabs the attention of the listener and it doesn't let go throughout a whirlwind 8 songs, all that are filled with phenomenal musicianship. 'Road' best sums up the bands approach which is hard rock intensity mixed with stunning creativity. One interesting point about the band is it has two very talented vocalists in the band with Dickinson and Holland and together they enhance each other with stunning melodies and exceptional vocal phrasing. Take a listen to the one section during 'Road' where Holland does a bit of jazz-styled scat with the guitar - you don't hear stuff like this everyday, exceptionally good.

'Scale The Mountain,' 'Flame,' and the incredibly groovy 'Soul Mover' blend gifted songwriting with the very highest quality of guitar techniques. You can literally hear passages of Eric Clapton styled blues, Ritchie Blackmore styled classical inflections, and Jimi Hendrix styled larger than life psychedelic mastery and sometimes, all of this comes together in the one song. It is not all hard rock traditionalism though, 'Crosses You Bear' displays a softer side to the band and while it is still the 70's tradition, it has a very different vibe to the rest of the album. I would still describe it within the Cream-Clapton era blues-rock mold but there is also something unique about this that sets it apart from the standard blues-rock fare.

'Hard-Hearted Woman' reminds me strongly of Humble Pie - if you have heard their long-winded jams on the Fillmore East live album, you might understand where I am coming from. It is heavy 70's blues grooves, tight enough to impress musically but loose enough to give you that off-the-cuff live feeling. While this reminds of Humble Pie the sound is more akin to the ear-bleeding sounds of a Blue Cheer and you volume/distortion junkies out there will dig it I am sure. At times the distortion threatens to take over the sound completely but they reel it in just when it is needed. Another ballad follows with 'Crying River' featuring female vocals courtesy of Malin Dahlgren and this is perhaps the weakest track on the album. It is still way above-average in songwriting and performance but given the exceptional quality of all the other tunes this album has to offer, 'Crying River' comes off a bit like filler.

After that slight come-down in proceedings, the album ends on a masterpiece, 'Galloping Horses.' This tune kicks off up-tempo and very energetic and just gets more wild and unleashed as it goes along. Muscular riffing blended with blistering leads is the order of the day with this tune with the band sounding like a proto-hardcore punk version of Mountain. If you like your 70's inspired rock to be full of flash, this album is for you. The production is raw but warm, much like that of many a 70's heavy rock classic album and the playing is full of taste and excitement. In a word, this album is addictive - buy it....9/10.

Stubb @ Myspace

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