Self-titled – The Sticks

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A good
listen to the Sticks’ self-titled debut and it's clear that surf guitar isn’t
dead. Brought to you by a Brighton, UK duo comprised of two fellows named James
and Stu, they're reminders of why you originally bothered with those
old Ventures records in the first place.

Thankfully, this ain't your “Telstar”
or “Hawaii 5-0”. James and Stu take the format a step further, employing the styling traditions of both Pere
Ubu and the Fall. Speaking of the latter, it comes as no surprise that they
supported Mark E. Smith as his backing band at Brighton’s Westhill Community
Centre back in February 2009.

“On the Run” and “One and the Same” are rough ‘em up pub rabble tunes with great call and response amidst churning surf guitars. “Earshot”
exhibits the roar of hyper active beach happenings, with pounding drums and
ancient Vox amps blaring loud to keep sand from their vacuum tubes and
speaker cabins. The Mancunian master Mark E. Smith exceeds “influence” on some of these tracks, like when his deadpan vocal delivery is paid tribute on both “Honkey Time” and “Got Me.” While the vocals are sparse and
behind the fuzz of the guitars, the amazing reverbed grooves can evoke both 1960s
transistors partially buried in beaches, and Coltranian jazzy affectations, like in
“Giant Strides.”

My gripe is that the where the vocals trail
off, The Sticks' monster movie soundscapes beg to be draped in that great Lou Reed
school of rock n’ roll vocal styling. Perhaps they were playing with the great surf rock instrumental paradigm, but to these ears, they could have had gone the
extra mile and added some text–know your rights, young lads.

Nevertheless, they present
a series of stunning and expedient vignettes that never break three minutes, let
alone two. The great moments (like “Slam Party”) see the band churning out raucous licks and
hollering out a two man party jam; you can almost envision bikini-clad bittys on dreary UK shores, twisting.