By Liz Tracy
By David Rolland
By Alex Rendon
By Terrence McCoy
By Natalya Jones
By County Grind
By Liz Tracy
By Chris Joseph
Back in South Florida, they set out to record in earnest, sinking money into sessions at an acquaintance's warehouse studio. Shady dealings ensued, and the band never again saw the money or the recordings. All the better in the end — out of the ashes of that mess, they scored all of the studio's gear, from mics and cables to a complete ProTools setup. Stonefox looked homeward and never looked back. "When you're paying for time in someone else's studio, everything turns into 'good enough,' " Asher says. Barnard adds, "When you're recording yourself, you pretty much don't have to worry about anything except getting the take you want, the style you want."
That style has clearly jelled on Back on the Wire, a work of surprising technical achievement. The album's production is crisp when it should be and distorted when it should be — vocals run through guitar-amp distortion, guitar chords explode in a swarm of tambourines. All this from a morass of wires snaking by curio cabinets, from speakers abutting sofas, from drum kits positioned around kitty condos.
The record's mood too is focused in its intensity, almost cinematic in its build. The first half starts slow, the album's title track shaking with a Deep South bar band's swing as Asher's snake-charmer voice seems to wring itself out. It's a trippy invitation for the repentant to come worship at the altar of Stonefox's rock. The prayer gets gradually more fervent — "Go Back to California" picks up the pace with circling, trance-like rhythmic repetition and a few slicing guitar solos.
"Stun Like a Gun," a couple of tracks later, is a full-on revival — the kind of thing designed to make a crowd uncontrollably thrust pelvises and tear at hair. Things dial back a bit with "Ordinary People," an unexpectedly subdued standout that channels late-period Beatles, somewhere between "Rocky Raccoon" with its wistful strumming and "Eleanor Rigby" with its observation of daily routine. But by the penultimate track, "Fuzzy Ray," Stonefox is inciting the throngs again to get down and dirty, pegged onto a riff of maybe ten notes that are impossible to cleanse from the brain.
That's all heavy praise, but Back on the Wire is one hell of an induction into the Stonefox cult. Come to a service at Propaganda on July 30 or at the Poor House on August 1 and leave converted. If all goes right, Stonefox should soon be preaching to the masses.