Friday Full-Length: Stubb, Stubb

It was brought to my attention this week that it’s been six years since Stubb‘s self-titled debut (review here) made its way to public ears via Superhot Records. Not an insurmountable amount of time; that is, it’s not like I don’t remember 2012, whereas other than war and being drunk and broke, 2005 is total mystery — but long enough to be a surprise when considering a release and its ultimate impact. With touring in and beyond the borders of their native UK scene — which six years ago was still also just getting going in comparison to bring one of the world’s most flourishing and rife with creative deep-divers — the London trio quickly put themselves at the forefront of a wave of fuzz riffs still just taking shape. Of course, having a fishing supply catalog’s worth of hooks didn’t hurt their cause, but I don’t think Stubb, which at the time was the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist/vocalist Peter Holland and drummer Chris West (the latter two culled from Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight), were looking to change the world. Not every group wants to, you know, but especially in terms of being the right record in the right place at the right time, Stubb‘s Stubb landed at a moment of generational shift in UK heavy rock.

And as landings go, it was an ace. Driven by songwriting, post-Hendrixian guitar fuzz and the dual vocals of Dickinson and Holland, even side B cuts like “Hard Hearted Woman” and “Crying River” proved memorable, and with “Road” and “Scale the Mountain” to serve s an immaculate one-two punch at the outset, there was just no letup from Stubb in this incarnation and with these songs. They took what I think even they would tell you were well-trodden methods and made them their own. On their first long-player, especially, this was a feat, but to have it happen at the same time as such a slew of other acts were coming together, Desertfest London was beginning to take hold, a scene developing at venues like The Unicorn and The Black Heart in Camden, and so on, made Stubb‘s eight tracks seem like all the more of an achievement, whether it’s the blues-rock finale of “Galloping Horses” or the purposeful opening that “The Road” gives: purposeful and effecient as it is, but still lighthearted and clearly enjoying itself. Stubb‘s Stubb hit a balance of structure and looseness of vibe that’s not only rare for debuts, but outright impossible for many bands who lean by their nature too much to one side or the other. Stubb knew what was up right from the start, and with Dickinson at the fore vocally to deliver those hooks, they came out of the gate with something special to offer even in comparison to their many compatriots emerging around the same time. Stubb stood out.

I’ll give credit there to West and to Holland as well. Though one and subsequently the other would eventually part ways with Dickinson‘s company, one only has to hear Holland take the fore in the chorus of “Scale the Mountain” to realize how special the dynamic between the guitarist and the bassist truly was, and with West‘s snare bringing punctuation to the shuffle of “Flame” and setting the uptempo clip for the verses and transitions of “Hard Hearted Woman,” in style and impact he’s no less purposefully looking to the style of heavy ’70s riff rock than Holland or Dickinson, as the jam at the end of that song further demonstrates on its way to the cool blues melancholy of the penultimate “Crying River,” a duet between Dickinson and guest vocalist Malin Dahlgren of Swedish folk duo Polly Tones. Even there, West plays it subtle but effective, giving the melody the room to properly shine as opposed to a “Road,” where the building of forward momentum was so utterly pivotal to the success of the song. So much fuzz. So much groove. So many landmark-feeling choruses. And yet none of it is overdone. Even the initial bluster of seven-minute closer “Galloping Horses” evens itself out to a right-on, baked-just-right balance of structure and fluidity.

In April 2012, I was fortunate enough to see this lineup on stage in Eindhoven, the Netherlands (review here), and it confirmed just how remarkable a dynamic the trio had between them. Following the album, that would show itself one last time on the ultra-catchy Under a Spell 7″ (review here), after which West was replaced by drummer Tom Fyfe. Stubb‘s second full-length, 2014’s Cry of the Ocean (review here) served as a different kind of triumph as it engaged not just rock traditionalism, but also that of soul and funk to a greater degree than its predecessor while still holding to much of the tonal warmth of the debut. The subsequent The Theory of Light and Matter (review here) split with Mos Generator — whose spearhead Tony Reed had been involved in mixing/mastering Stubb releases all along — again brought more change, showing a jammier face on songs like “Witch’s Kiss” that would continue to expand on last year’s conceptual Burning Moon (review here) single-song EP, Dickinson and Fyfe having replaced Holland with bassist/vocalist Tom Hobson in the meantime.

That latest 24-minute single was delivered with the stated intention of being the first part of a series of three EPs working in similar theme and form. Not really enough time has passed for one to reasonably expect the next anytime soon, but if it showed up in the earlier going of 2018 sometime, you certainly wouldn’t find me complaining as though Dickinson has taken Stubb in a much different direction than when they started out, they continue to offer multi-tiered engagement and an expanding creative breadth. At this point, if they said they were going to do a third record in the next year or so, I wouldn’t even be able to guess what it might sound like. That’s a feeling I very much enjoy.

Speaking of enjoyment, I hope you enjoy the revisit to Stubb‘s self-titled. As much as the band has changed in personnel and concept since, and as much as the scene in which they dwell has done likewise, it remains an important and central document of a generational switch, as well as a kickass collection of awesome tunes.

Thanks for reading.

Crazy week. Not much sleep. Monday was nutritionist and therapy, plus I had the baby for a bit in the morning while The Patient Mrs. was out at a work meeting. Tuesday I had the baby all day while The Patient Mrs. was teaching, Wednesday was nutritionist and then baby in the evening while The Patient Mrs. taught a night class, yesterday was a doctor’s appointment an hour away — because as I’ve said multiple times, everything is an hour from where I live in Massachusetts — and that was between having the baby in the morning and again in the early evening, after which was a quick trip to the grocery store, dinner and chores before going to bed (dishes done, iced tea made, etc.), and today I’ve got the baby again for a couple hours this afternoon because The Patient Mrs. has to go to a meeting.

Add to that the fact that there wasn’t one day this week I slept later than 2:30AM, and yeah, it was a bit of an adventure. This morning I went back to bed for a little bit though, and I fell asleep for a while at the keyboard, so I don’t know if that counts or not because I’m not counting because the meds I’m on make me care less about that shit and to be perfectly honest with you, sleep is about the least of my concerns. Since I started this eating disorder treatment my body has gone into what’s known as “refeeding syndrome” and I’m retaining so much water that I literally look like I’m pregnant. Plus I have edema so bad in my feet and they’re so swollen and red that it hurts to stand on them. Good thing I don’t have crazy body issues and/or haven’t had to do much running around. Ha.

I’m eating well, though. And despite a stated risk of congestive heart failure (fingers crossed for adventure!), they tell me I’m getting healthy. Personally I don’t think anyone has a fucking clue what that means, myself certainly included. I just keep doing what I’m told because I love my wife. The end.

Next week is less busy on a personal/medical level — at least I hope — but there’s still plenty going on around here. The notes, subject to change, look like this:

Mon.: Green Lung EP stream.
Tue.: The second installment of the Nebula stream/interview series.
Wed. Naxatras review; High Reeper video premiere
Thu.: Fu Manchu review.
Fri.: Something in the works, but unconfirmed as yet.

So there you go. I’m continuing, even with the baby on my lap grabbing his foot in what is a marker of a next stage of brain development for him and fodder for sending pics to his grandmother for me, to fall asleep at the keyboard, so I think I’ll probably leave it there for the time being. I feel like there’s something else I wanted to say here but can’t get my brain around to whatever it was. You’ll get ’em next time, tiger.

As always, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please don’t forget to check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

Tags: , , , ,

One Response to “Friday Full-Length: Stubb, Stubb

  1. Gaia says:

    Loved this record in 2012, and saw them at that year’s Desertfest if I remember. Great presence. Saw Trippy Wicked too, and it was interesting to see the members wearing different hats. I remember seeing JJ’s good self too, in The Black Heart snapping some shots during Black Pyramid. Good times!

Leave a Reply