The Stereo - No Traffic
Fueled By Ramen
It's strange to review a brand new record released by a band that no
longer technically exists. The Stereo has seen many changes in its
as-of-yet short rock career. Started by Jamie Woolford and Rory Phillips
(of Animal Chin and The Impossibles, respectively), the band put out their
first release, Three Hundred. At first, I admit, I wasn't blown away - I
guess I was expecting more of an edge. But after a few more listens, what
at first seemed unimaginative seemed more original in that not many bands
were putting out straight-up rock records like that. My opinion was backed
up by their honest, energetic (though a bit kitschy) live rock show. I guess
it's still OK to do the tight, all-black getup thing if you don't take yourself
When they hit the studio with J. Robbins for their next release, "New Tokyo Is
Calling," it seemed as though they had lost something. The title track was a
keeper but the dull supporting tracks lead me to contribute the EP to my
ever-growing "damn, I thought that was gonna rock," CD graveyard.
So now to the new record. Again - I am finding that the Stereo can create a
record that, at first listen, leaves the listener rifling through their
wallet for that damned little yellow receipt from the record store. But hold
on, and give it a few more spins. If you're like me, you'll start to notice
a subtle head-bob and possibly a foot-tapping. Let's look at the standout tracks.
"Get Set For Sound" starts off with a soft guitar, and self-mocking quip about
how the record isn't as good as their label says. 5 points for dissing your own
record, but don't keep doing it because that makes you sound like a pretentious
ass rather than a pathetic emo rocker. Content wise, the songs are pretty cut &
dry power-pop with emphasis on vocal harmonies. The second track, "New Tokyo Is
Calling" was thrown on from the aforementioned EP. It brightens up the record, but
more importantly for the Stereo, squeezes some bonus mileage out of old material.
Right off the bat, track 3 gave me a nervous tick with it's completely uncalled-for
and poorly executed falsetto "woooh-oooh" chorus. It makes me wanna go all You Can't
Do That On Television style and drench them in 40 gallons of green goo. The fourth
song,"On Three" is an up-tempo rocker - tainted only by Jamie's seemingly obligatory
comment, "there is no meaning to this song." OK, I get the picture, you guys aren't
rock prophets. Track 6, "Unordinary" instantly got a smile out of me. Seriously - if
there was ever a rock n roll production of Beauty and The Beast, Disney would be
snagging the rights to this song quicker than their interns can edit in sexually
explicit sound-bites. Track 7 starts out like a Wolfie jam and disappointingly fails
to deliver with a generally uninteresting and sappy lyrics. "Can't Look Back" gets the
rock rolling again with infectious hooks and a dance friendly beat. I'm shocked and
appalled that the Stereo didn't utilize the group hand clap, which - I believe - was
invented specifically to be in this song. The same thing could be said about track 12,
minus the hand clap, but here they seem to blend pure pop with hard rock guitar - and
it seems to work fairly well.
As a whole, this record was a sleeper that is definitely worth giving a second chance.
For rock fans who find that the voice of power-pop has become flat and dull, you'll
enjoy the fact that Jamie is actually singing (!?) on this record. Buy "No Traffic" if
you're a rich kid. Otherwise, hold on to your cash and blow it on Weezer tickets and
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