THE STRIFE AND TIMES
If you're scratching your head, you're not alone - most people have never heard of Sticks and Stones . And while members of the band went on to contribute to such notables as Zero Zero ,Johnny X and the Conspiracy , and The World/Inferno Friendship Society , Sticks and Stones never really get their props. The band - well, they broke up just as the gettin' got good, so to speak. But Chunksaah has decided to school your lame ass and give you a gift - an incredibly complete and rich collection of one band's songs that almost changed the world. For fans, this is an awesome release. And for those who have never encountered Sticks and Stones, it's a valuable opportunity to hear these previously hard-to-find recordings.
Sticks and Stones was special because they had soul. With help from their contemporaries (bands like Lifetime and The Bouncing Souls ), this New Brunswick, NJ band unknowingly helped lay the foundation of today's mainstream Punk explosion/industry. But it wasn't a highly purposed aesthetic or slick marketing that made Sticks and Stones stand out - it was the way the spirit of their music transcended them as a band; Sticks and Stones' songs were so painfully honest, so perceptively brave. Braided into distinctive and punchy songwriting, this cocktail of substance and kick-ass helped Stick and Stones leave a real legacy, the influence of which still shapes the modern Punk landscape.
Widely considered to have been ahead of their time, Sticks and Stones crafted moody, melodic Punk tunes that were as much Asbury Park as they were East Village. The band was like the musical equivalent of a beat-up prize fighter refusing to throw in the towel - the emotional sensitivity in these songs eclipses most contemporary attempts at artistic rock claiming to be 'emotional' and yet doesn't sound whiny or self-serving. In their songs, listeners will hear an unassuming vulnerability, their obstinate determination - a spirit that has helped elevate the band, posthumously, to a place of reverence. To paraphrase drummer Chris Calello from the liner notes of The Strife and Times , this band just wanted to mean something real - they wanted to matter. And simply wanting to mean something… well, that means something. It's in this way that Sticks and Stones communicates a powerful message - success is found in the desire for success, and in the process of discovering personal revolution.
From their earlier material (influenced by bands like The Clash and The Replacements ) through their later, more distinct and dark songs, there is not an ounce of wasted time or energy in this retrospective collection. Complete with a couple of covers and some funny segues between 'chapters', The Strife and Times is a genuine piece of audio history.
And all of the serious "art" stuff aside, these songs are totally going to stick in your brain, forever. Complete with a thick booklet that includes lyrics, flyers, writings and photos, you're not going to find a better way to spend $15. In this modern day when Punk Rock is everywhere in a watered-down form, The Strife and Times is an undiluted, even concentrated shot of the real thing.
-Ronen Kauffman / KamikazeWords.com
To be frank, if you're at all a fan of modern day East Coast punk rock then you need Sticks & Stones' The Strife and Times . This band has been criminally underappreciated today, something that Chunksaah hopes to remedy with this two-disc compilation.
The Strife and Times is made up of 41 tracks of re-mastered songs from the New Jersey band's 1987 to 1995 recordings. The material ranges from early demos, cassette and 7" material to previously unreleased live cuts and songs from their early 90s full-lengths. The first disc contains some of the rarer material, including three songs from the Inner Revolt cassette and tunes from the World To Be Saved, Song To Be Sung ,Coupe Flowers Can't Fail and Storm Coming 7" records. Along with that there's a couple of demos, a pair of unreleased live songs and a track from Skene Records' Can You Break Through? compilation LP. This material sounds as good as one would expect with the remastering. Of course it's evident that it was recorded on a budget, but the rawness fits the music. The most recognisable track for those of us who missed-out on the band when they were around is "Less Than Free," which the Bouncing Souls revived for their BYO Split Series release. Sticks & Stones also put their spin on songs by Bruce Springsteen, P.E.D. and the Dead Kennedys.
The second disc features the band's more easily available material, culled from 1993's Theme Song For Nothing CD / LP and the `94s The Optimist Club LP. While early on the band relied on a played a promising mix Replacements, Clash and 80s hardcore influences, their later material is strikingly original and well written. The band grew darker lyrically as time went on and incorporated more introspective and folky elements into their sound. "Theme Song For Nothing," "Laugh To Scream" and "Thanks For The Cash" are obvious standouts, but there's nary a weak track here. Particularly interesting is a driving cover of The Police's "Synchronicity II," one of 9 tracks from the LP-only Optimist Club release, the band's final full length and a wellspring of creativity. Both discs end with the song "Home," a rather touching acoustic tune. A rough 1990 demo caps Disc 1 while the full 1994 studio version concludes Disc 2.
Echos of this band can be heard all over modern day East Coast punk rock, most obviously in the Bouncing Souls. The history of both bands is entwined and former Sticks & Stones members Johnny X and Rob Santello have become regular characters in the ongoing story of the Souls. Singer / guitarist Peter Vantantonio is currently fronting the World / Inferno Friendship Society under the name Jack Terricloth.
We namedrop Lifetime and Jawbreaker quite a bit when describing the roots and sounds of today's punk. Sticks & Stones deserves far better than to be just a footnote on that list. This release is essential.
-Adam / Punk News
The Sticks & Stones compilation is two discs of old fashioned, no nonsense punk: stripped down, sloppy, direct and from the heart not the ass. Real music, sometimes even with spontaneous tempo or beat changes, so it breathes. Funny interview clips in between acts add to the flavor and social message to their stuff. Sometimes they do lose me when the songs get too straight ahead melodic. The music is see-through: you can tell when it’s inspired and when it’s not. The overall effect is stimulation – it will raise your blood pressure and speed your heart rate. (This is a good thing.)
This two disc set is a 41 track compilation of one the most non- conforming punk bands that shook up the genre in the early 90's. You'll hear influences of bands like the Clash or Television, and you'll also hear oddities thrown into the mix (melodic folk, harmonies that are deep and troubling, synthesizers, etc.). These songs are like a blue print for a band just starting out. They give them an idea on how to NOT to be like the trendy bands on Top 40 radio and MTV. None of the songs have commercial value (that's good), and each song is uncompromising in lyric and in the punk DIY ethic.
-Phil Rainone / Jersey Beat
|©2006 ZAK KAPLAN / STICKS & STONES|