StaG - Don't Check Out - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

StaG - Don't Check Out

by Steve Ricciutti Rating:6.5 Release Date:2016-03-01

Stag is a L.A. based group of musicians and producers who came together to make music their way. They play a gumbo of styles, incorporating 60s pop, 70s glam rock, 80s skinny tie new wave, and 90s alterna-pop. They site influences ranging across Cheap Trick, Big Star, T-Rex, The Hollies, The Raspberries, and Sweet. With their own experience in That Petrol Emotion and Alcohol Funny Car, the ingredients are as varied as the sound. Additionally, their production experiences give the sound a gloss that elevates this above a typical indie release.

What I like about the band is also what makes this album a bit hit-and-miss. The band members are older and wiser, with none of the youthful conquer-the-world immaturity. On the other hand, plenty of the songs on here have lyrics that sound as if they were ripped from a high school toilet stall. “Don’t Check Out” is an exercise in self-indulgence indicative of a band confident in their skills yet aloof enough to not give a shit if you dig it or not. I love that approach, but the flip side is that you can expect a few songs that might not work for you.  

The mix of influences and styles isn’t limited to songs but is often found embedded within songs; like a blender constantly churning, changing per each song’s unique recipe. Their fealty to pop assuaged my sensibilities and often turned songs I wasn’t fond of at the start into ones I was singing the chorus of by the end. All those years in the business have taught the members of staG how vital catchy hooks, addictive choruses, and a strong sense of irreverence are to a band’s appeal.

Some highlights for me were “My Empathy is Dying Out,” a funky pop rave-up that is my favorite song on the disc, the Devo-Weezer-B-52s ménage a trois of “Narcissist,” which does the commendable job of incorporating the word “excursive” into a line, “Colorado-Suicide,” which reminds me of the ‘80s band The Reivers, the chugging Talking Heads-esque title track, and the wistful change of pace “Code of the Schoolyard.” As I mentioned, there are some songs that didn’t quite work for me even as they made me laugh; e.g. “I’ve Never Seen Another,” despite rhyming “demon” with “semen” in a hilariously self-effacing song about one’s member.

The musicianship is a big strength, demonstrating a band capable of mastering a lot of styles and keeping things tight and tasty. Despite the ups and downs, there’s nary a dull moment on the disc. 

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