STOOR – ‘Fleam’ (Stereogram Recordings)
Sometimes the great bands are lurking on your doorstep and you simply don’t know that they’re there.
If it was unforgiveable to overlook Spare Snare for so many years, the fact that STOOR had escaped my notice was more understandable.
Reclusive to the point that they were more likely to record rather than play live, I only became aware of the band when they re-emerged from the garage onto the Dundee live scene a few years ago.
I saw the Dundee four piece (Scott McKinlay -drums/backing vocals, Ross Matheson – guitars, Stef Murray – vocals/bass, Davie Young – guitars) for the first time in April 2014 and have enjoyed them on each one of the numerous occasions I’ve seen them since.
The long-awaited debut album, 20 years in the making (or maybe a hundred!) appeared the following year and if its admirers were small in number, they were at least enthusiastic. I made it number 4 in my favourite albums of 2015.
By the time the album received a CD release on Stereogram in 2016, the band were well into recording their second record to the extent that my interview plugging the re-release was carried out in the studio to the backing of Ross’s parts on ‘Unlike Them’.
So it’s fair to say that I’ve been a little impatient for the release of album 2, now entitled ‘Fleam’, out this week, again on Stereogram with a limited edition white vinyl release.
Post-punk remains a good reference point but ‘Fleam’ is not just a heavier proposition than the debut but also a coherent, focussed statement.
That heaviness reaches its zenith on the disturbing ‘Chivers’, with its slabs of metallic guitars over a truly unsettling lyric. Something bad has happened (“The blood is seeping from the tailgate of the refrigerated lorry”) yet the song’s exhortation to ‘Come and see’ induces a real sense of fear in the listener.
Some of the other song titles– ‘Atrocities’ and ‘Pain’ also suggest a sense of foreboding, yet despite its title, ‘Atrocities’ features the album’s perkiest guitars. ‘The Dig’, ‘Lovebombing’ and ‘Unlike Them’ all marry memorable tunes and thrilling guitars to Stef’s monstrous bass-lines proving that their skewed sense of melody remains fully intact. As a result, to these ears at least, the album is peppered with potential singles.
Once again, the lyrics are a big part of the appeal, sometimes opaque, sometimes funny, but always thought provoking. As examples, ‘Unlike Them’ is a declaratory, jingoistic satire of arms industry PR ‘(“Deliver justice down from the sky”) whilst ‘Lovebombing’ rails against disparate targets such as door to door religious salesman and imperialist foreign adventures.
Yet despite their fine words, pleasingly, STOOR’s love of an instrumental remains on display. ‘STOOR Theme’ is reclaimed from the ‘Instrumentals’ EP and given a 21st century makeover, whilst ‘Agags Groove’ may be one of the album’s lighter moments, yet it also displays a fraught edge.
Yet for all its merits, I fear that the album will struggle to garner the attention it deserves. Let’s be honest here, no matter how good they are, STOOR are never going to be anyone’s idea of the latest young sexy buzz band.
But who needs that sort of band anyway? All the rage one day, forgotten the next.
No, take it from me, for the discerning listener ‘Fleam’ is as electrifying and intoxicating a record as you’ll hear all year and one that will stick with you for a very long time.
More info on STOOR and ‘Fleam’ here.
STOOR launch ‘Fleam’ this Saturday (30th March) with a show for the Cool Cat Club at Beat Generator Live in Dundee. More info here. Doors at 8 pm.