Things I like in music. Grooves. Alternative sounds. Interesting voices. Dark imagery. Well-crafted song structures. Puns. So, it seems as if Stuart Pearson might be writing songs merely to satisfy my own tastes and whims. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, and to be fair, those elements have always been the stuff that makes his music intriguing and unique, but it does seem as if his latest single, The Devil Whammy (you see, titular puns I love it) brings everything together everything that I already adore about his music more so than perhaps before.
But this is new territory in a way, in that, although I may be wrong about this, The Devil Whammy could be setting itself up to be a seasonal dance song, the sort of thing that would have been at home on the soundtrack of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, had it been written by Jeffery Lee Pierce of The Gun Club and performed by The B52’s when they were feeling a bit grumpy. And if you are going to have a dance craze, it might as well sound like this. The Macerana for goths? The central song from Betelgeuse: The Musical? A Gagnam-style dirge-disco tune for the recently undead? The sort of music that George A. Romero might have put on to unwind between writing screenplays and scripts? And why not? The timing is perfect, given that Halloween is just around the corner.
Stuart Pearson has always been good at deconstructing the American Dream, looking at the dark underbelly of modern life, and musically offering alternatives to the mainstream. What is great here is that The Devil Whammy has the power to be both alternative and mainstream, commercial and cultish, a song that comes from the fringes but, given a fair wind and a lucky roll of the dice, has the power to take even the less adventurous pop-pickers by storm. Stranger things have happened.
It doesn’t hurt that the song is built on nostalgic vibes – a dark, fifties-infused guitar twang, early rock ‘n’ roll sass, some gritty, garage rock energies, and a sound often associated with the witching hour and the Halloween vibe. But it does more than hedge its bets on past glories; it is also, in its own clever way, a song that is geared to the modern audience.
But more than anything, the infectious groove it runs on does much of the heavy lifting here. A groove that gets you nodding your head, then shuffling your feet, clicking your fingers and swaying your hips before plunging headlong into a dancefloor shamanic ritual with a gothic twist. Actually, we could just call it The Gothic Twist. Groovy!
And lyrically, it does its job perfectly, the chorus in particular being that great blend of repetition, uncomplicated lyricism and sing-along-ability…if that is even a word…but you know what I mean. It also doesn’t hurt that Pearson has one of those voices, one that sounds like it has been subjected to a regime of cigarettes and whiskey, too many late nights and that he has been chewing on razor blades between regular bouts of howling at the moon. A voice with character, which is a gross understatement, a voice indeed a hundred times more interesting than anything that the usual mainstream plagiaristic popster or autotuned indie kid has to offer.
As always, a single is, among other things, often an advert for an album to follow. In this case, that album is suitably entitled American Gothic and is about a month or so away. And, if this is the sonic advanced guard sent out to titillate, tease and test the water, then the album to follow will be something that almost everyone will be putting on their wish list. Those with alternative musical tastes and those who love odd and infectious alt-dance tunes. Fans of early rock and roll and modern creatures of the night alike. Those who like fun songs and enjoy music that paints interesting, if slightly macabre, pictures and that delves a little deeper into what modern music can be. Music that subverts the mainstream even whilst posing as its newest recruit.
Just buy it; what’s the worst that could happen? Well, you could accidentally summon the legions of the hell realms or find yourself battling spectral forces, but sometimes, that is a price worth paying for great music. This is undoubtedly one of those times.