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21 December 2016 (released)
08 February 2017
There are times where a single chord can change everything. It can turn a perfectly good but somewhat forgettable tune into a track that stays in your head for ages. Inter-Sting’s opener ‘Deluge’ begins in standard fashion with ringing guitar arpeggios. Stuart Taylor’s bass lines dexterously climb and descend around the chords, like driving a winding mountain road. Julian Ledger’s drums give a steady rolling and tumbling feel. Singer Jalal Andre’s vocal dynamic is intriguing. His voice sits naturally in Elliott Smith’s plain-spoken croon but when he climbs up to the falsetto range, his voice morphs into a more Pet Sounds era, Brian Wilson-style surf rock. Rather than turning to a whimper as Smith’s does, Andre’s voice kicks up an extra gear when punching those high melodies. All this would be a recipe for a solid, well-produced indie/post-punk rocker. Good for a flash in the pan on alternative rock stations…but there’s this one damn chord.
Now, I’ve listened to countless bands pushing their high energy, mid-tempo album openers. All passable but you can usually sense they made all the safe choices musically (despite whatever edgy angle they’re putting on). Chord-2-3-4, Chord-2-3-4, Chord-2-3-4, Chord-2-3-4. Each one pretty much what your mind was anticipating. However, if they can pull you in with that familiarity and then flip it on you, then you’ve got something special. The chorus of ‘Deluge’ hits all the expected chords until the fourth change where they slip down to a darker chord than you’re anticipating. Andre’s voice descends from his falsetto into a menacing mood as he lands the line “You leave me desperately dreaming”. It puts you in uncomfortable territory, dangles you on the cliff. That one chord turns this song from a good one to a great one.
In comparison, the lead single ‘Rayon’ leaves something to be desired. It is grandiose and has emotional weight but doesn’t go out on a limb like ‘Deluge’ does so it is somewhat forgettable. ‘The Falling Ceiling’ has some good post-punk flair. Gritty verse vocals melt into a dreamy chorus. The track’s climax hits glorious heights as Andre’s voice soars like Perry Ferrell. Later album tracks focus on hanging guitar licks like those on early Pumpkins records. These tracks are more brooding, atmospheric and all-in-all more captivating.
The Inter-Sting LP starts off with a bang, sinks into familiar somewhat lazy punk-infused territory then finds it’s vibe again on the B-side of the record for a fantastic second half. The Seattle band’s debut has transcendent moments and Taylor’s bass is on point throughout but there is still some ambiguity as to where to focus their sound. Hopefully, they continue to make the more interesting musical choices going forward. A few of these songs are going on playlists for sure.