Review Summary: No.
There’s a great scene in the film Tropic Thunder, in which Australian actor Kirk Lazarus is engrossed in his character as an African-American – walking, talking and acting exactly like he believes the African-American should. Alpa Chino, a fellow actor and an actual African-American, is highly bemused by Lazarus in character.
“You’re Australian!”, he shouts at him. “BE Australian!”.
This may seem irrelevant, but it’s a perfect metaphor for Australia’s pop music scene. Essentially, that is just what ninety percent of Australian pop acts are doing – acting American. Over the years and especially throughout the 00s, the United States scene, and what subsequently tops its charts, has taken the role of a big brother that we Australians attempt to impress by mimicking their every move - albeit in a far too excitable fashion to be taken seriously. Of course, it’s a formula that’s been known to work – acts such as Cassie Davis and The Veronicas have cracked an international market with their music, establishing the right connections and getting plentiful teens world wide to go batshit
over their MySpace profiles.
Even the greatest pop optimists that can find good in even the largest three-and-a-half-minute irriations would be kidding themselves to even think that there wouldn’t be a few rotten eggs amongst the batch. In this instance, after seeing the success of generic, dance-oriented pop-punk take off, three teenagers from the central coast of New South Wales had the idea fly through their thick heads: “Hey, we could do that!”.
No, boys, you couldn’t. And with the release of Stack is the New Black
, you still can’t. The band is Short Stack, and if you hadn’t guessed by the photos of their heavily-teased hair, jackets and tight jeans, this is a collective of faux-musicians that care far more about how they look than how they actually play. Here we have a classic case of style coming absolutely nowhere near any form of substance. The album is a start-to-finish test of human patience, a pastiche of teeny-bopper bunny-mosh choruses, one-finger synth bleeps, lifeless zombie-like rhythms and hands down the most irritating lead vocalist you may ever come across in your life.
Meet Shaun Diviney, the charming ringleader of this tween-fantasy circus. When young master Diviney isn’t busy noodling around his fretboard or churning out chord progressions Tom Delonge would spit upon (all the while under the adorable impression that he can actually play), he’s making noise with his mouth. Normally, this is called singing, but it’s an incredibly difficult stretch of the imagination to refer to this tuneless, heavily-accented whining as anything that remotely resembles what a singer should sound like. Not even AutoTune could save this migraine of a vocalist, moaning and wailing his way through lyrics like “Princess, why you so contagious?”, “Shimmy shimmy go-go!”, and possibly the finest in romantic delicacies: “Kill your boyfriend and we can be together”. What a charmer.
If you think there’s too much here about Diviney, try dissecting the work of his other two monkeys on Stack is the New Black
. Bassist/backing vocalist Andy Clemmensen is virtually non-existant sonically throughout the record, which strengthens the theory that he’s just there for show. Meanwhile, if you asked Bradie Webb who his favourite drummer was, he would most likely respond with whoever creates the loops on Garage Band. Worthless musicians, the two are barely worth the sentences they have just received.
The entire affair, if you hadn’t already guessed, is completely overproduced and sickeningly glossy, free from any of those irritating elements of sound that other bands have to deal with like authenticity and musicality. Every track feels forced and artificial, products in placement of actual songs, big hooks instead of purpose. Lame duck pop such as the infuriatingly irritating “Sway Sway Baby” is matched up with little-dudes-with-attitude “punk rawk” like “Drop Dead Gorgeous”, as if to prove some kind of versatility. And when they actually attempt to make a departure from their regular sound, it gets even worse. How to describe Thick as Thieves to the blessedly uninitiated? Picture this: The song sounds as if they had listened to the weakest tracks of Decemberunderground
, then an MSI record they stole from their older brother, then snorted cocaine and wrote this song within minutes. It’s an awkward mall-goth atrocity with pseudo-spooky piano and possibly the album’s worst hook – though, to be fair, arguing over which chorus is worst on Stack is the New Black
is akin to cancer patients arguing over whose condition is worse.
In under an hour’s time, this trio will convince you without much trouble at all that they are everything that is wrong with the way popular Australian music is headed. Credit where credit’s due, however: If hair and make-up were an instrument, you’d be certain that we’d have a trio of virtuosos on our hand.