conviction, promise but not total success

Blue Horse (Big Whoop)

Stick People

By Ray Rizzo

Blue HorseBy Stick People is a tight set of songs conceived and executed by a band with conviction. Drummer Jeremy Smith drives the impact of Bryan Smith's well crafted, understated bass lines with force and precision. Guitarist Scott Sweeney is never at a loss for pinning the mood of the songs, and best satisfies me personally when biting with his Dave-Navarro-a-la-Jane's Addiction temper. At times, however, instrumental performances are undermined by decisions made somewhere during recording, and for whatever reason, edges of Blue Horse that should cut and shred sometimes sound rounder than the music calls for.

None of this diminishes the fact that most every song on Blue Horsehits its mark and sounds ready for alternative radio. But this brings us to the broader issues of Blue Horse:Stick People constantly want to play in the shoes of their influences rather than in the spirit of them. The result makes it hard for them to avoid comparison and not suffer by it. If Blue Horsearrived at a time that wasn't already drowning in Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkin and NIN wannabes, it would be easier to appreciate the intensity of Stick People.

However, there are tracks on Blue Horsewhere Stick People avoid such criticisms and seem most ready to take on the countless contenders for alternative-rock ears. "Lie" and "Broken Soul" are two such moments. For singer/lyricist Jeff Sears, these moments also reflect a departure from cliché into deeper poetics and wider opportunities for him to stretch emotionally as a singer, without relying on the "intensity in a box" Trent Reznor vocal stylings that plague a few of the songs. Sears has the voice to deliver, and takes center stage at the end of Blue Horsewith the acoustic guitar/vocal arrangements of "Golden and Back Again" and "Nightingale." The result is powerful in its honesty and melody, furthering the belief that fresher sounds wait ahead for Stick People.