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Stockholm Syndrome

Apollo

(Response Records; US: 15 Feb 2011; UK: 14 Mar 2011)

Stockholm Syndrome is one of those chameleon bands that seem to change up their approach with every song. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can leave the listener puzzled. The band, which was founded by vocalist Jerry Joseph and Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools, released debut Holy Happy Hour in 2004 and follow up now with Apollo, a record that seems to epitomize the term “grab-bag.”


Opening track “Apollo” grinds and squawks like vintage Crazy Horse-era Neil Young, but don’t get too comfortable—follow-up “Fools Rush In” channels a white-guy-soul vibe along the lines of, say, Graham Parker, an association reinforced by the final cut’s lyrical reference to “squeezing out sparks”, the title of Parker’s late-‘70s breakthrough album. Subsequent songs tend toward high-energy guitar-rock, but we’re never too far from a foray into folky string music (“That Which Is Coming”), power pop (“Red Lightning”), or more of that blue-eyed soul (“Cool Cool Cool”).


This diversity isn’t a problem, per se, but it does leave the listener groping a bit for the band’s identity. Is this a criticism? You decide. A bigger problem is the weirdness of “That Which Is Coming”, whose lyrics declare “Blessed are those on the right” and “Damned shall be those on the left”. There is no sense of irony in these words—or anywhere in the song, or the record, for that matter. But such reductive statements beg to be taken politically, and at a time when the political landscape is already simple-minded and facile, lyrics like this just come off as irredeemably stupid.

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DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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