I get the impression from reviews and editorial coverage that Short Stack are one of the planet’s most critically hated bands. I’m not sure what they did to deserve this, other than being an easy target for bitter listeners. Sure, their debut, for the most part, was nothing special and completely derivative (aka: the exact type of emo-rock I moaned about when Fall Out Boy popularized it a few years ago), but every band deserves a second chance. And I’m here to make an audacious (and possibly unpopular?) announcement. Short Stack have released one of the best albums of 2010. Yep, one of the best
. It takes me back to when rock music was fun. Huge choruses, even bigger guitar riffs, and charisma to spare.
1. Bat Country
- A chugging, atmospheric opener that sets the gothic tone (though not sound) of the album. It's not my favorite uptempo on the album, but it's a great introduction to the album as a whole. And I'll probably mention it again, but Shaun deserves major props for his vocals. They're just dripping attitude the entire time. 9/10
2. The Cross
- A short piano intro to the next track (the same that's heard in the music video). No scores for interludes, though.
- A huge hit for them, and deservedly so. To be honest, this song didn't fully hit me until about the third listen. After that, it stuck and still hasn't faded in my opinion. It's a real standout of their new sound. Big guitar riffs, choirs (or at least choir-processed vocals) and a real glam swagger. 10/10
4. Are You Afraid Of The Dark
- Massive overload of the systems. This is just awesome
. It's got a real sleazy funk to it and the final forty seconds rock harder than anything I've heard all year. It's an anthem tailor made for stadiums. It's even got a bit of an industrial Marilyn Manson vibe to it in the chorus (in the best way possible). 10/10
- A string-laden ballad that's at once a little silly and pretty touching. The chorus is addictive from the get-go (especially the amusing howls), and although it could easily be a novelty track, the symphonic backing's anything but throwaway. It's a hit waiting to happen, and could function as a metaphor for many listeners. 10/10
6. The Cannons
- Another short interlude. Specifically, the chant that features at the beginning of the Disco
7. We Dance To A Different Disco, Honey
- This is already on its way to being massive and, like Planets
, it took me a few listens to warm up to. But it's a total standout -- an adrenaline pumping dance-rock anthem. It's got the energy of a full-blown riot and may just end up functioning as the band's catchphrase and rallying cry. 10/10
8. The Mercury
- The first of two song fragments featured on the deluxe version of the album. A slow-burning, dramatic My Chemical Romance-type sound.
9. Heartbreak Made Me A Killer
- Another absolute highlight. This is as poppy as the album gets, with a huge Queen-inspired hook and an 80's sleaze disco beat. One of the best melodies on the album. Shaun absolutely shines here. The vocal delivery is what makes this really work. He's a star, plain and simple. 10/10
- The big, 80's power ballad of the album. This sounds a lot like Poison (the Every Rose Has Its Thorn
era) and has a ridiculously cheesy (aka: awesome) drum fill towards the middle. As clichéd as it sounds, a total lighters in the air moment. 10/10
11. Sweet December
- A successful single last year, this is the closest the band veer towards their old sound on this album. It's a dynamite pop/rock track, though. Great, great melody. There's something very Swedish-sounding about this (think The Sounds, The Ark, etc.) 10/10
12. Ruby Red
- This suffers a bit coming off of the string of songs before it, mostly because it sounds like the poor man's Wendy
. It's not immediately the most impressive ballad, but that's not saying it's bad (in fact, the big chorus is pretty impressive). It's just not quite as good as the rest. 8/10
13. The Thunder
- A short interlude of heavy drums, which leads perfectly into...
14. Jack The Ripper
- Back on track, and with a vengeance. This gothy track is big on percussion and attitude. It's one of the simplest melodies (and shortest running times) on the album, but also one of the most effective. Totally single worthy. So, so cool. 10/10
15. Sweet Emergency
- The second short song fragment. I prefer it to the first. It's nothing completely necessary, but provides a nice segue into the next track.
16. Die Young, Stay Pretty
- This is an odd one. It almost has a Sweeney Todd
feel to it. Definitely dramatic and theatrical, though it sounds substantially older than the rest of the album -- like a weird old gothic folksong. 9/10
17. Nothing At All
- A big ballad to close the album. The strings and vocals are turned up to full tilt on this one. It's still not as good as some of the earlier ballads, but it's grown on me a lot from the first listen. The chorus really gets under your skin. 9/10
Album Grade: 9.6/10
Labels: reviews, Short Stack