Dublin-based multiethnic alt-rockers The Stoles‘ self-titled debut EP showcases a sound that manages to borrow every trope and cliché from rock ‘n’ roll sub-genres as disparate as glam rock, post-punk, psychedelia and indie rock and produce something that’s enjoyable but rather indistinct. Each of the four tracks included here sounds familiar. However, at a stage in music where it seems like nothing is new and everything’s been done, one can’t be too hard on emerging talents like The Stoles for not managing to carve out their own lane, especially at such an early stage in their career.
Sonically, there are some nice touches. The only problem is that they’ve all been done before. The driving fuzz-bass that kicks the EP off on opening track Another Road To Recognition would sound at home on any rock album of the last 20 odd years, as would the contrapuntal guitar lick and the lead vocalists mid-range moan. For all it’s in-distinctive features, however, the track does show off the band’s ear for melody and dynamics, but does little else to hold the attention of the listener. Meanwhile, Protest Song sounds like anything but; it’s glam-stomp drumbeat, staccato guitar riff and vocal inflection all amounting to something that sounds like it could be a Bowie-era Iggy Pop/Stooges throwaway. Lyrically, the song doesn’t really shine either. (“I find it hard to see about tomorrow but guess you’re right ’cause this is no type of sorrow”, “It’s time to find the purpose of our existence”). The “la da da di” dual vocals on the chorus are infectious, but the guitar lead that closes out the track brings little to the plate and seems to have been included for the sake of including a guitar solo.
There are glimmers of the band finding itself. Red House is a pleasingly moody piece with well thought out drum fills to build tension in the opening moments and nagging, one note guitar riffs layered over an equally persistent chord progression on top of which the vocals ring out powerfully. Shine On Me‘s drum exercise and upper-register vocals make for further enjoyable listening.
In a nutshell, The Stoles’ EP is a far cry from ground-breaking or entirely original but there are some moments that any music fan can appreciate within it’s 14 or so minutes.