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Still Flyin'

On a Bedroom Wall

(Ernest Jenning; US: 22 May 2012; UK: 22 May 2012)

What I first heard about Still Flyin’, way back when, was that they were an indie-ska band who were great live. Often, “don’t laugh, they’re good” was in there soon after the word “ska”. Nowadays they don’t sound like ska or reggae at all, if they ever really did. It makes sense now to think of them all along as focused on groove, whether they were playing sort-of reggae or, like now, more into synthesizers, a neo-‘80s dance groove. Their harmonies, tunes and playing are all aimed in the direction of the groove. 


To this end, there’s both a nightlife vibe and a 1980s synthpop air on their second album, On a Bedroom Wall. Various songs offer hints of New Order, OMD, the lighter side of The Cure…or of newer updates on those sounds. There’s a song that cribs a melody from The Postal Service (“Big Trouble in Little Alabama”), one with a distinct Labrador Records quality about it (“Surrender to Me”) and a few that resemble a less hyper Architecture in Helsinki. Yet there’s more of a collective “having a party” feeling than with any of those bands. And then all the ‘80s touchpoints and group partying give way to the clear voice of one person, Sean Rawls (of Masters of the Hemisphere and Je Suis France), though he’s surrounded by friends – including members of the Lucksmiths, the Aislers Set and other well-loved indie-pop bands.


The title On a Bedroom Wall alludes to the image of band posters on bedroom walls, something you see on the back cover of the album, too. And I wonder, “Do kids still do that?”, while remembering my own poster-covered wall as a teenager and pre-teen. In any case, the album embodies the youthful feeling of wanting to do something special—to follow a dream, escape. There are couples who feel lke outlaws and try to run away, and fantastical projections of our imagination: ghosts and phantoms that are manifestations of our dreams.


There’s also a steady current of confusion and concern, with lyrics that speak to unconscious worry, like, “I never know just why I feel this way / but there’s something in my bones I want to say”. (“Big Trouble in Little Alabama”). They seem to be always trying to channel that longing for “something more” into positive energy. That is the essence of their sound and the live concert experience – the groove will lift you up, try to make those dreams temporarily feel real. As Rawls sings on “Candlemaker”: “If you can’t see see life / then make it”.


Dancing and grooving here has a supernatural element. “Just shed your skin and surrender to me”, he sings. Throughout the album, fantasy is tied in with the myth of the night, which as an image is connected to freedom, creativity and nonconformity—which brings us back to the poster on the wall and what it stands for to the lonely teenagers listening to music in their bedrooms.

Rating:

Dave Heaton has been writing about music on a regular basis since 1993, first for unofficial college-town newspapers and DIY fanzines and now mostly on the Internet. In 2000, the same year he started writing for PopMatters, he founded the online arts magazine ErasingClouds.com, still around but often in flux. He writes music reviews for the print magazine The Big Takeover. He is a music obsessive through and through. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri.


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Still Flyin' - Spirits
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7 Nov 2010
There’s a melancholy feeling to this party.
24 Sep 2009
Party we want to, not just because the band taps into a kind of quintessential party feeling, but because its members seem friendly and have a lot of positive energy, plus nice harmonies.
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