‘Say Hi to the Band’ is an album that has been a long time coming. After EPs that have been praised by both fans and press, free downloads that have been phenomenally well received, countless festival appearances, a few high-profile soundtrack placements and a live show that grabs the attention of both public and bar staff alike, it’s a delight to see Stagecoach finally release their debut long player. Released via Alcopop! Records, the record promised a slightly new direction from the band and the singles released in advance hinted at a grittier sound.
One of these singles, the Britpop-inspired ‘WorkWorkWork’ starts the album and it’s an old-fashioned opener about the joys of being in a band. Luke Barham sings: ‘I remain in my teenage day dream, a Peter Pan of sorts, it’s no career but it pays in memories, simple Rock & Roll’, lyrics that will instantly conjure up memories of a youth spent wishing you were in the next big band. There’s a forceful and driven atmosphere here which continues onto the next track ‘Action’, a song opened by Matt Emery’s frenetic drumbeat. Stagecoach have always had the ability to craft choruses that won’t leave you for days and this song retains that trend. As the instrumentation becomes more and more assertive, the lyrics of ‘We were looking for some answers, but all we wanted was some action’ will reverberate around your brain. If Evan Dando decided to write a song for We Are Scientists, it’s likely it would sound something like this.
It’s not all fast-paced indie-pop though, the influences of Ryan Adams and Wilco shine through on some of the more introspective songs. ‘A New Hand’ has a classical, almost waltz-like ambience that perfectly accompanies the subject matter of leaving your 20s and finding a teenage diary under your bed. In amidst gentle acoustic strums and Luke’s softly delivered vocals, there’s also talk about not growing up and a line about how ‘all my friends were marrying’. Deeply personal, the song seems to cover the trials and tribulations of getting older. ‘Kings Resolve’ has a nice nod to Surrey and in amidst gliding guitar riffs, there’s talk of how: ‘My vision was clear, even with the lights low’ and there’s a real desire in the delivery of the words: ‘Don’t dissolve’. The song also is expertly paced with a Frightened Rabbit-eque edge to the arrangements.
Clocking in at over 5 minutes, the immersive Americana of ‘First and Last’ is the longest track on the album by far. This is a song that harks back to Stagecoach’s roots as a country-tinged band. The album’s closer ‘VideoShop’ is another deeply personal retrospective that is sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s worked in retail: ‘I’ll never stack these shelves again, and if I do it will be the end, I never wanted to work in video’ and ‘wave goodbye to the cancer of the store’ being just two of the key lyrics. Luke and Matt’s vocals are also merged in perfect harmony as they sing: ‘It’s not too late to separate fact from fiction’.
The duo also combine their vocals on the penultimate ‘I’m Not Your House’, a gentle song that appears to be about lost hope, with discussion of dead-end streets and wishing things had been different. The guitars are still turned up throughout the record however, with Nick Tanner’s riffs now more prominent than ever on the newly beefed-up version of fans’ favourite ‘We Got Tazers’ and the 3-minute spikiness of ‘Nothing Leads You Astray’. On the faster-paced songs, there’s a new resurgence and determination that merges catchy pop moments with memorable and melodic grunge-tinged hooks. With ‘Say Hi to the Band’, Stagecoach have made the record they’ve always wanted to and it’s been well worth waiting for.
Buy ‘Say Hi to the Band’ from Alcopop! Records here.