Every once in a while, you hear a band that you want to tell everyone about. Right now there’s a band I want to tell you about called The Saint Ides, I really like them (and I’ll get to telling you why in a second), but I have to say upfront that I know one of the band members.
The dilemma is two-fold: One, I don’t want any reader to think I’m blowing smoke up their ass just because I know the dude. And two, I don’t want that dude to get upset if I do a fair review full of praise and criticism. I think I balance the line. Read on and judge for yourself.
On The Saint Ides first release, the Stolen Cars EP, they cement themselves at the forefront of a small movement that grows larger everyday: the re-arrival of Rock & Roll. The late aughts and early years of this decade saw the fracturing of our beloved national genre while bands figured out how many different time signatures they could get away with or how many variations of “How You Remind Me” they could fit on the radio at once.
Then Paul Westerberg decided to get The Replacements back together to play some gigs, and it was like the gods of Rock & Roll shone down upon the world. And like after any period of brief dance blandness, the backlash of Rock will be strong on edge and hostility, and Stolen Cars is exemplary.
It starts reminiscent of the last great rock wave from 2001, most notably like that of the Strokes— if they were a Penguins cover band. That is to say, you get the impression that these guys know their Doo-Wop and Rockabilly as much as their garage rock and Punk. “The Low Spark” and “What a Life” are fun like the New York Dolls were fun, or The Ramones covering “Let’s Dance” was fun. If you we’re to go on an Animal House-style road trip, this is the music you’d bring on the trip (as they say on the latter track, “it’s one for the money, and fifteen for the road”).
In five short songs (the EP is just over 17 minutes) they stake a claim on a sound that has gone unchampioned for nearly 10 years. What’s notable about this is that they’re able to hold this sound throughout the EP without experimentation, like it was written in their blood to play this kind of music. The faster songs—the above two, and closer “Stolen Cars”—rock where they’re supposed to rock and roll where they’re supposed to roll. Even the ballad-y “Heavy Heads” and “Luck” manage to feel raw, taking cues from the aforementioned Replacement’s “Here Comes A Regular” or “I’ll Be You.”
But like The Mat’s earliest EPs, Stolen Cars is obviously that of a band that’s still got some figuring out to do. Ideas are thrown in piecemeal into the mix— the 12-string acoustic on “Heavy Heads”, the brass on “What a Life”. I’d like to say that everything works all the time, but that isn’t the case. The former is weakly played out and deserved a much more prominent role. The latter, on the other hand is pitch perfect. The sax solo on “Luck” comes out of nowhere, and kicks the song up a notch.
My biggest gripe with the band is most evident on the eponymous final track. It is most well written song on the EP, the strongest recording, but you can’t tell what the singer is singing about. It creates an empathy gap that you cannot cross and the songs that offer reprieves—like the chorus on “What A Life”—hold up better over many listens than the songs that do not.
The vocals are akin to Michael Stipe’s on his earliest albums where you don’t know what he’s saying, but you know you’d like it if you did. And like Stipe, the vocals are so alluring that you wish he’d open up and let you in. That wish appears not to be granted any time soon, but even Stipe eventually relented and gave us gems like Automatic For The People.
But this is the inherent charm of the band. The Ides are sometimes out of tune, a little disjointed, or off-kilter. They are that kind of band that you can imagine playing any and all local bars, getting paid in beer, and hanging out with the crowd later on. If I were to name the band, I would have called them The Regulars in honor of the Tim closing song. They’re the guys you know and can trust, in this case to play some really great Rock & Roll.
Article by: Christopher Gilson