Stripe Stripe Fiasco | Teeth | New Music Review
Genre definition is so overrated. Whether it be film, music, or art, it seems like everything has mated nowadays, making for an integrated fusion of a once duality or whatever. Really it just sounds pretentious. It seems like many artists in the music industry are marginalized into “pitching” their sound or concept to record labels, audiences, or promoters. I can only imagine the headache of trying to define your band’s “sound”. That’s why I am strongly encouraging Grateful Web readers to step outside of the tired genre definition game and listen one of my favorite up-and-coming bands, The Stripe Stripe Fiasco. Their sound is playful but focused; no-bullshit alternative rock ‘n’ roll. What a refreshing breath of air for the so-called “indie” genre (one of the most tired so called non-genres). There is nothing “emo” about this alternative rock band, which plays with such passion and forwardness that any attempt at comparing them to a sound or another band becomes a concession since their sound is sincerely built from so many different stratospheres of the musical universe.
The Denver-area band consists of vocalist and keyboard player Rachel King, Richard Schwering on guitar and vocals, Bobby Barbeau on bass, and Joel Monroe on drums. Together their collective contributions revive so much of what I adored about 70s punk, 60s mop-top rock, and 90s grunge. See what I mean? Who needs definition if something simply sounds great? The quartet has been performing frequently in Boulder, Denver, Golden, and beyond since 2008 but has reached a cornerstone in their career: the release of their first full-length album. “Teeth”. What is it about teeth? Everybody has a mouthful of them, but every single one is different. Kind of like everybody’s experience of love and loss; whenever you experience that it feels so personal and alienating, but really everybody’s experience with heartbreak is universally similar.
To me this is where the success in Stripe Stripe Fiasco’s “Teeth” lies. Something comforting and familiar, but like nothing you’ve really ever experienced or heard. In the ten-track LP that clocks in at just under 35 minutes I hear elements and hints of bands I’ve adored, but something about their approach makes it seem like the first time I’ve heard that seemingly familiar riff or vocalization. The strengths of each player come through with sincere communication of their separate influences along with their collective ability to listen and integrate each other’s musical inspirations. Take the opening and title track of the album; Rachel King’s opening vocals evoke the drawl of some distant bossa nova memory, before they fall into Joel Monroe’s hypnotic drum roll and Rich Schwering’s melodic lead rhythm that extinguished my former déjà vu into something completely different. This is the sonic landscape that a Stripe Stripe Fiasco song has to offer.
Some of my other favorite tracks are “Hero” which reminds me of a Velvet Underground basement tape that somebody rescued 40 years after the fact. Vocally “At Least” is memorizing. King’s vocals are enunciated with such understanding that its as if she’s unintentionally evoking a history lesson of punk music. The offbeat time signature of this two-minute twenty-second track is charming and comes off as firmly mature and focused. Schwering’s “Down” epitomizes the album’s underlying theme of different spectrums of love perfectly. His vocals are so aimed in this purpose that by the time his killer guitar solo sets in, you’ve realized how entranced he’d kept you previous.
And by the way, Schwering and Barbeau’s guitar work does not sound like a punk or indie band, it comes off to me as jazzy and playful, occasionally the vein of Trent Reznor’s most experimental instrumentals while touching on musical themes further beyond that. The duality between male (Schwering) and female (King) vocalists comes off so effectively that it takes the duet concept on an album-wide scale head-on; evoking both gendered sides of a heart-wrenched lover’s lament. “Diary” in particular has this charming quality displayed most directly. The album’s closing track “Things You Can Use” hits home as lightly humorous with hyperbolic references of “salting exposed flesh” and “using a wrench to tighten a nut” hitting home that most love involves inflamed emotions and over exaggerated tensions. Exposing it with a tight instrumental outro ends the album on a note to be proud of, truly a hybrid of too many sensibilities to explain.
Do yourself a favor and step outside of the genre explanation game. Free yourself of tired comparisons and listen to something new. Stripe Stripe Fiasco will undoubtedly continue to grow and build a larger following with these ten strong tracks as their fresh foundation. Check them out on facebook and listen to much of the new album. Be sure to support them live as they continue to grow as I’ve seen over the past four years. The new album will find an audience with many different kinds of listeners, so long as they are willing to abandon the notion of definition, replaced by complex musicianship and sincere style. “Teeth” is available for download off of their official website through the CD Baby link. Please continue to support live music by attending their shows and purchasing their new album.