Ah yes, good ol’ 90s regurgitation. Although I’m still decently in love with that classic era, Stickman – A Chromatic Grey doesn’t feel particularly noteworthy. From Vancouver, Canada, Stickman are obviously paying homage to the greats of the 90s like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Red Hot Chili Peppers… but if I’m in the mood for this genre, I’d rather be listening to the greats.
The album feels very repetitive. The band seems hard-pressed to sound so 90s, which is decidedly the most attractive aspect of it all. Most of the lyrics have been heard before, and most of the style points on this album are sourced directly from popular bands who have already been there and done that. I do have to credit the incredible effort to remain true to the epoch, because even the album artwork is pretty darn evocative of earlier times in any millennial’s life.
Let me explain that this isn’t a shitty band; they can absolutely play without sounding like they’re in need of music lessons, and there are moments of uniquely pleasing guitar effects. The album just isn’t giving me any special feelings.
One positive spot to acknowledge is the sample work and sound effects like record scratching sounds, echoed voices, and memorable synths that make you think of Stranger Things and retro synth wave parties. It’s nostalgic, which is what the band was going for, and exciting. However, that excitement is pretty quickly squashed when the same old, bland radio music feel settles back in. Whole tracks are dedicated to cool transition phases between songs but frankly, after the first two, they exhaust my patience. About ten tracks in, I’m already asking myself, “Oh, it’s not over yet? This is getting long…”, and that’s exactly what it is: long.
We have to talk about “Suddenly,” in the eleventh position of this release, which has been haunting my mind like the faint smell of defrosted meat lingering even AFTER you’ve cleaned your broken freezer out. If you think that diehard Sum 41 fans weren’t going to notice the surprisingly similar lyrics to “The Hell Song,” you were wrong. Why did they have to make it sound so similar, even down to the syllable pronunciation?! A Chromatic Grey would have been better off without it, seeing as every single Sum 41 fan has now pressed pause on their YouTube app and searched something else. Not the best way to get listeners to want to hear more from you, especially if all other tracks sound extremely similar.
Kudos to the effort put into recording this debut album, but Stickman will remain nicely in my browsing history. If you’re looking for more of what you’ve probably already heard, and cannot fathom breaking away from your childhood memories (or traumas), maybe this one’s for you.
Written by Talia Plante
*edited by Kate Erickson