Lee Ferguson: 4.5/10
Henri Brillon: 4/10
Back from the dead is another edition of Bucketlist’s Bipolar Review; one album taken on by two writers with the purpose of digging a little deeper into these albums for your personal enjoyment and discovery. This week, Lee Ferguson and Henri Brillon dig into the latest album by Stolen Apple, Wagon Songs.
Though Henri and I both write for Bucketlist, extenuating circumstances (i.e. pandemic) have prevented us from actually meeting in real life. Will we come together through this review and form a lifelong bond? Will we be so at odds that meeting in the physical realm will just be too painful? Time to find out.
Well, when speaking over the phone Lee didn’t seem too strange, so I remain hopeful. Although, you never know with drummers! Jokes aside, we did agree on one thing: neither of us really enjoyed this album. It’s what I would call an “honest effort,” but no more.
I’m going to get this out of the way real quick, I have a problem with frontman Luca Petrarchi’s vocals. I recognize that Stolen Apple is from Firenze, Italy and they are singing in English, so it’s probably just the accent, but the point cannot be overlooked. Petrarchi has decent vocal chops and the band rips, digging into that classic rock/alternative catchy ferocity, but it all gets undermined by some poor enunciation, phrasing, and expression.
Lee is right on the money. I mean, I’ve said this in previous reviews, but if I can tell you’re singing in your second language, it’s going to distract from the end product. This bothers me most with Québécois singers trying to sing in English, but the same applies to Petrarchi’s singing style. I can’t help but wonder why he isn’t singing in Italian!
Take the opening track “Suicide,” very brooding and grungy, doused in that early 90s defeatist, the-world-is-shit’ attitude. The guitar interplay is very reminiscent of Alice In Chains or Dinosaur Jr, fuzzed out solos and thick as brick drumming, Petrarchi signs with the cadence of Kurt Cobain but it gets washed up in the accent. This is not an easy fix but not an impossible endeavour. Aside from this, all the elements are there for a killer fucking vibe.
As you delve deeper into Wagon Songs you start to pick up on some trends, Stolen Apple like to lean heavy on the guitars with everything else as support, it’s a very classic rock approach and there’s nothing wrong with it in this case. The band is clearly comfortable with the structure and while it may not be inventive or unique, they sit in the pocket well and its satisfying. Tracks like “Masturbation” or “Tattoo” are fine examples in that aesthetic, amped up bar/party rock and roll, a little dirty but too polished to be punk.
There are cases where uniquely accent vocals can contribute to the individuality of a band’s sound. Sentenced from Finland are one of my absolute favourite metal bands; you can hear vocalist Ville Laihiala’s accent come through when he sings, but it never gets to the point where it’s a distraction or deters from the music. I believe if StolenApple can work out that kink and find how to highlight the strengths in Petrarchi’s vocals, the band will thrive.
Alright, time to pass the virtual mic over to Henri. Have at it, homie.
It feels to me like the 90s grunge vibe is a little too obvious. This kind of dissonant, guitar-driven music just doesn’t sound fresh to my ears anymore unless the execution is stellar. Don’t get me wrong, I love the grunge subgenre, but if you sound too much like Sonic Youth or Soundgarden nowadays, you’re doomed to go unnoticed.
Sadly, Stolen Apple’s musicianship lacks the refinement that would have been required for this record to stand out. Lee is right in saying this is too polished to be punk, and I would add that Wagon Songs isn’t polished enough to count as passable grunge. The perfect example of this is on the track “Out of Fashion.” The main guitar riff sounds like they just kept the first thing they came up with. Too often, the arrangements are repetitive; closing tracks “Passion” and “Easier” seem to go on forever and the lead guitar jangles predictably the whole time.
This record is another case of “not unpleasant, but not outstanding in any way.” Add to that a lackluster lead singer whose accent distracts from what he’s trying to do, and you’ve got yourself a band I’d go see in a pub if they were my friends, but that’s about it.
There you have it, another edition of Bucketlist’s Bipolar Reviews! Check out Stolen Apple’s record Wagon Songs and see if you agree with our writers.
Written by Lee Ferguson and Henri Brillon
*edited by Danielle Kenedy