As always, an adventure is always around the corner when you’re Stick In The Wheel.
Release Date: 2nd December 2022
Label: From Here Records
Format: digital / CD / vinyl
With a cover that might promise be some sort of psychedelic or intergalactic Hawkwind-related venture, Stick In The Wheel pause their more recent ambient experiments and go back to basics.
The three albums, From Here, Follow Them True and Hold Fast all get mined for choice cuts by the core of Nicola Kearey and Ian Carter who are joined by Siân Monaghan on drums and bassist George Hoyle. Capturing the vitality of their live shows is the aim, as opposed to the ambience of some of their recent experiments and the mission is accomplished.
It’s good to hear the return of the signature hypnotic dobro again striking out a brittle harshness along with the footstomps and handclaps. Back to the real organic defiance and a breakneck delivery that ‘s matched with the ‘repurposed’ lyric on White Copper Alley. The “jolly jape into debauched London” sees the sex worker as protagonist, the tale spun out amidst a distorted accompaniment of more frentic delivery via the sharp guitar, thumping drum and breathless vocal.
That coarse signature is briefly put on hold as As I Roved Out gets autotuned and synthesised, quite un-May song-like; the slowed down, spoken word delivery adding to the general air of strangeness. Taking their skill in arranging into otherworldly directions, it acts as a reminder that while the core of Stick In The Wheel lies with a bare bones approach, their willingness to explore the outer edges of any sonic boundaries is admirable.
I’m reminded of the The Dave Clark Five thump from Bits And Pieces in the pounding pulse that anchors Villon Song. Against slashes of power chords, a punky and wildly undulating passage threatens to veer out of control as the life of a criminal given a thoroughly raucous dressing. The mood swings again in Gold So Red where the pre-Christian carol gets a jangly and psychedelic wash where the guitar switches from the signature dobro to Byzantine swirl.
Maybe the pick of a well chosen and immersive set is Robot. Taken from Tom Cox’s book of short ghost stories, this spoken word journey into the woods sees the band in a semi-improvised excursion into the darkness. Described as “a menacing folk horror saga,” it’s given a brooding and vaguely psychedelic and eerie soundtrack. Another nightmare before Christmas. Perfect fare for Love, Death And Robots on Netflix.
An overused phrase, but ‘never less than interesting’ is always one we can shoehorn into use when we listen to Stick In The Wheel. Endurance soundly Caged is no exception.
Here’s the video for Robot. Made for the band by Zeroh using text from the short ghost story by Tom Cox, from his bestseller Help The Witch. It features a Robot made from parts of the ancient beach-landing Hasting fishing fleet.