Review Summary: Glorious indie-reggae-psychedelia summer jams.
In 2014, something uncommon happened; arguably one of the first legitimate reggae-fusion chart-topping hits of the decade was released, with the single ‘Rude’ peaking at number one in multiple countries. Yet to hold ‘Magic!’ and their particular brand of saccharine, quasi-pop-reggae up as the bastions of a much neglected genre in recent years, would be doing the genre itself an enormous disservice. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I find Australia’s Sticky Fingers such a delight; they’re the aged, single-malt whiskey to ‘Magic’s’ alcopop, the ‘Undertale’ to ‘Magic’s’ ‘Assassin’s Creed’, the 'Mad Max' to ‘Magic’s’ 'Taken 3'. Essentially, they’ve successfully re-introduced a soul, a beating heart, a real sense of weight to a genre which I’ve found little to enjoy with since the early works of 'Sublime'; almost twenty years ago.
However to pigeonhole Sticky Fingers solely as a reggae-fusion act would be a mistake, as there’s much more on offer here; or as the bands neatly summarizes a ‘melting pot of reggae, psych, pop and bourbon’. For fans of their previous effort, ‘Caress Your Soul’, there’s still an abundance of what could be described as the bread-and-butter of that record - psychedelic, reggae-influenced, upbeat indie-rock anthems – present and accounted for, the ideal soundtrack to a laid back summer get-together, to indulge in some of life's more mischievous pleasures. Tracks such as ‘Lazerhead’, ‘Land Of Pleasure’ and lead single ‘Gold Snafu’ delight in this regard; with the latter featuring an infectiously ear-worm-like tune and a thick cheerful bass-line, with a vibe so well suited to the soundtrack of a softcore porno, I almost expected a half-naked pizza-man to ring the doorbell while listening to it.
Yet whereas ‘Caress Your Soul’ was a mostly upbeat, carefree affair, ‘Land Of Pleasure’ sees them at times venturing into darker territory, often to sobering effect; perhaps best exemplified in ‘Liquorlip Loaded Gun’. Although appearing to be an upbeat piano and guitar driven ballad from the outset, it’s barely begun before the genre bait-and-switch becomes apparent, seamlessly shifting into a sombre and downbeat electro groove, with lyrics which touch on the struggles with alcoholism and the downward spiral of self-destruction which can eventuate. For fans of ‘Sweater Weather’ from ‘The Neighbourhood’, this invokes a similar feel, of navigating dark and deserted city streets, however with the message behind ‘Liquorlip Loaded Gun’ being so much more heartbreaking, especially when contrasted with the upbeat drink-til-the-break-of-dawn attitude which defines many of the tunes which proceeded it.
‘Land Of Pleasure’ also features a much more luscious sound and well-rounded production values than previous efforts, no doubt resulting from their rising stature allowing them more time in the studio. While ‘Caress Your Soul’ was comparatively bare-bones, here the more psychedelic and grandiose side of the band is on display; and the record is all the better for it. The vocals are laden with effects and delays, which at times become almost other-worldly, the guitars range from soulful and intimate to space-like and outlandish, the drums go from laid-back and unobtrusive to crashing and frantic - such as the relentless drum and bass styled energy on display in ‘Just For You’ - and the gaps are filled with an eclectic smorgasbord of organs, pianos and electronics, which may need a few listens to take it all in.
Although it’d be a stretch to suggest that this motley assemblage of mustachioed men represents the future of reggae-fusion, I doubt the members would describe themselves as such in any case. Sticky Fingers is a band clearly set on forging their own path; and it's one which gradually seems to be pushing them past the moniker of ‘indie darlings’ to bona-fide mainstream success. So perhaps if you’re not yet on the Sticky Fingers bandwagon, it’s time to do as the band advises; ‘surrender your dignity to your urges in the Sticky galaxy where psych, soul and rocking roots collide’.
Liquorlip Loaded Gun