Review Summary: Flickerstick provide a debut album filled with catchy rockers, sparkling harmonies and sweet ballads.
I have never been a fan of buying albums that I haven't listened to yet. Being only 17 years old, pocket money provides me with my only income each month. Naturally, this keeps me on my toes when it comes to buying anything and I always make 100 percent sure it’s something that’s going to be really worth my well-earned cash. The first time I heard Beautiful was from Flickerstick’s self-financed debut album Welcoming Home the Astronauts – before they were signed to Epic Records. I liked what I heard despite the scratchy production and began searching for the album. It took me a while but eventually I managed to find an imported copy of the Epic re-release of “Welcoming Home…” at my local music store. In an uncharacteristic moment of spontaneity, I decided to part with most of my newly-acquired money in order to add this CD to my ever-growing music collection. It was undoubtedly one of my most rewarding on-the-spot purchases.
The opening space-rock sounds and steady bassline of "Lift (With Love We Will Survive)" sets the tone for the album perfectly. The song is an epic opener that builds slowly before reaching its thrilling climax. At almost 6 and a half minutes long, it gives itself plenty of time to gain momentum and suck the listener in. "Got a Feeling" adds a little more of a mainstream rock sound to the alternative sounds of the opener. It makes for a good follow-up and is something a little easier to digest.
"Beautiful" is the album’s leading single and it is perfectly placed at track number 3. It’s a pop-rock anthem that is quite obviously the album’s hit song. Brandin Lea’s vocals fit in marvellously alongside the instantly recognisable lead guitar which is the driving-force behind the song.
However, after the short pop-punk sounding "Smile" come the album’s real masterpieces. The double-header of "Coke" and "Sorry…Wrong Trajectory" provides the centrepiece of the album. "Coke" is a beautifully crafted ballad that burns slowly until it explodes to life towards the end of the song. It has a lot of subtlety to it and the harmonising is superb. It is also the first real ballad on the album and it brings a new dimension to Flickerstick’s sound. However, it is very nearly outdone by its follow-up "Sorry…Wrong Trajectory". It starts off with background noises of what sounds like young children in the park, or during their school lunch break. This is followed by gentle acoustic guitar picking and slide guitar. The song, like "Coke", contains many intricate subtleties that make the listening experience thoroughly enjoyable, especially through headphones. Like so many tracks on the album it also builds up slowly to its chorus with only the guitars at first, then the drums and finally the full band in the refrain. It is a moving track that together with Coke gives the album its pillars on which it stands.
The album then continues with 3 more upbeat numbers in "Chloroform the One You Love", "You’re So Hollywood" and "Talk Show Host". The songs are in the same mould as "Got a Feeling" and "Smile" and they add a lot of substance to the album’s second half. However, the sound is somewhat overdone by the time "Hey or When the Drugs Wear Off" arrives, which must be said is probably the album’s weakest track.
But it does make the album’s grand finale all the better. At about 9 minutes long, "Direct Line to the Telepathic" effectively ends the album where it started. It is a grandiose alternative masterpiece that uses lots of sound effects beneath the acoustic guitar and Lea’s distorted vocals, which are perhaps at their best here in terms of conveying emotion. The song follows an almost identical structure to Lift, except after the lengthy build-up returns the acoustic guitar followed by noises made by a telephone. The wall seems to come crumbling down as the song is broken down piece by piece in total conflict with the way it was built. However, just as it seems like the end of the song, the drums kick in and the full band return for the big ending. It sounds like there is total mayhem as the band seems to be smashing down the very tower they created over the first ten tracks. It creates a marvellous image as the song eventually fades out into silence. However, there is an unlisted twelfth track, "Execution by X-mas Lights" which was added for the Epic release. It is a welcome addition to the album and, continuing the building metaphor, it sounds like the band is now looking over the destruction they caused. It seems to add just a note of finality to the album and ends a thoroughly enjoyable journey through the music of Flickerstick.
I would recommend this album to anyone who can appreciate good musicianship and harmonies. Flickerstick do not make the most complex music, but they are excellent at creating a mood and atmosphere and do a fantastic job of creating an album that will reach out to both modern rock and indie junkies and also alternative music fans.