Chris Stamey: Euphoria

Photo: York Wilson

By looking backward, Chris Stamey manages to see a bright, euphoric future, one colored just as much by his influences as his own illustrious career.

Chris Stamey


Label: Yep Roc
US Release Date: 2015-06-02
UK Release Date: 2015-06-01

In the 21st century, Yep Roc has become something of a facilitator for career renaissances for a host of celebrated critical favorites. Beginning with 2001’s The Convincer, Nick Lowe released a string of fantastic albums that saw an impeccable return to form. Similarly, Robyn Hitchcock and Paul Weller put out some of the best work of their respective careers on Yep Roc. With these critically acclaimed new albums elevating the status all three artists’ careers, their back catalogs were soon repackaged and reissued, again to widespread accolades.

Following the precedent set by Lowe, Hitchcock, and Weller, Chris Stamey too has seen his profile continue to rise in recent years. With the release of Euphoria, he may well have reached a new level of greatness. A founding member of the beloved dB’s and Sneakers, Stamey has long since proven himself more than capable of impeccably crafted pop hooks. But on Euphoria he ups the ante, delivering ten songs loaded with timeless pop that points both to the music’s past and present without feeling overly nostalgic or of-the-moment.

On “Where Does The Time Go?” he ponders the titular question while surrounded by echoes of pop’s past: Beatles-esque horns married with Big Star-like melodicism, all lovingly embraced by warm strings and a massive, vaguely familiar hook. A lyrical exploration of how quickly time seems to pass despite constant reminders to take one’s time, “Where Does The Time Go?” also eludes to the non-linear nature of time as experienced through music in that something recorded years ago can be listened to as though it were recorded today. By musically hinting at bygone eras, this theme is made slightly more overt.

Harkening back to pop’s golden age, no more appropriate title could be applied to Euphoria. Throughout, it’s clear that Stamey and company are enjoying themselves to no end. You can almost hear the smile in Stamey’s voice nearly every time he hits a triumphant chorus or witty lyrical aside. On the title track, nothing short of pure euphoria is achieved as the group drives ahead through a strangled guitar line into straight ahead psychedelic territory. It’s a heady trip that updates the genre’s more outré experiments, perfectly merging with the late-period Beatles-aping “Awake In The World” that quickly follows.

Augmenting his jangly power pop with horns, “Make Up Your Mind” sounds plucked from Ardent Studios circa 1972. Like so many of the songs here, “Make Up Your Mind” plays with the notion of the past within the present, offering hints of Stamey’s personal musical past as well as his most direct influences. Given his great love of Big Star, it’s not at all surprising how large a shadow that band has cast not only over Stamey’s entire career but also Euphoria.

Only on “You Are Beautiful” do the influences come to dominate to the detriment of the song. An aching power pop ballad, it can’t help but be heard as an approximation of the Joe Cocker tune, especially on the song’s quieter, more vulnerable moments. Fortunately, it quickly moves into a more fleshed out arrangement more in keeping with the rest of the album, but when it moves back to the titular phrase it begins to sound a bit too much like Ben Folds to be as convincing as nearly everything else here. But this is little more than a minor sticking point on a largely exceptional album of impeccably rendered power pop.

Essentially functioning as a career overview from a stylistic standpoint, it reconciles all the best facets of Stamey’s career into one cohesive whole. It’s not only a triumphant late-career statement, but also one which could well come to define the whole of his career.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.