Review of Stricken City's album Songs About People
Stricken City are Rebekah Raa, Voice and Korg, Iain Pettifer on Guitar, Mike Hyland on Bass and Kit Godfrey on Drums. Their debut album is Songs About People, the band are currently based out of London and will be playing SXSW in 2010.
Songs About People is a mini-album, with a total of 8 short tracks so it's a reasonably small first dose. The album starts with Gifted, this is an a cappella song apparently recorded on a London bus, which unfortunately sounds like a little girl has got her hands on her Daddy's Dictaphone and just sang nonsense into it. I know that more than likely it was some cute statement, two fingers to the over produced craft of 'music recordings' or whatever, but I found it lacked the power as an opening to the album, lyrically a little stale, and I'm not sure how Raa's voice holds up in the scarcity of no musical accompaniment. Stripped down simplicity is something when done well, sounds really powerful, like the recent Beck Record Club recordings but basic and simple when done badly sounds very amateur. Gifted would have been better as a secret track, at the end of an album, anywhere would be better than the introduction to an album as it doesn't open the album up well for the listener.
Songs About People did quickly pick up pace with Pull The House Down, and Raa's vocals could be compared to those of say, a softer Katie White from The Ting Tings, or even Belinda Carlise's vocals on early 80's hits like We Got the Beat from her punky The Go-Go's days. On Killing Time, Raa's vocals could also be compared to maybe a poor mans Fiest, but a stroppy, angry, punky, bubble-gum version.
Songs About People does have a sort of distinct 80's New Wave, Indie, Synthpop vibe which has been so terribly fashionable of late. The formulaic punchy, angular, punky guitar riffs, Hi-Hat/Snare repetition, dashing of synths, and attitude riddle lyrical squawks. Small Things has a feeling of a less pop driven track by The Ting Tings yet, certain moments on the album dig a little darker. PS has a Depeche Mode deep guitar riff, but with the same pace as Echo Beach, by Martha and the Muffins and Sometimes I Love You has the sort of melancholy that Morrissey mustered with many a ballad with The Smiths, just without any of the finesse or irony, and none of Stricken City's Tracks have any of the same impact as their comparisons. The Britpop element is even thrown in there with songs like Five Metres Apart sounding not dissimilar, to the not that timeless Britpop offerings, Lauren Laverne gave us with her 90's band Kenickie. Unfortunately, I couldn't quite hear any brilliance or true talent shine through on this album, and I'm not doubting that between them they do have some but it's all a tad too formulaic and having listened to all of their tracks many times, I don't have any of their hooks stuck in my mind.
There seems to be a lack of heart and soul on the album which is a shame because when that shines through, I find most listeners are much more forgiving. Songs About People will probably go down well with the musical columnist at a fashion magazine, it's on trend, has women in the band who can be dressed up and photographed wearing clothes which are also on trend but has very little substance. Stricken City will be out and about in 2010 so perhaps give them a go live, should the opportunity arise. I know sometimes debut albums don't necessarily catch the real intent of a band, how they would hope, so maybe they will redeem themselves live?