Fueled By Ramen
I hadn’t been sure what to expect from the Stereo — I knew that the band was made up of ex-members of Animal Chin and the Impossibles, but I’d heard they weren’t playing ska anymore. That’s absolutely true — there’s nary an upbeat to be heard anywhere on Three Hundred . What’s here instead is 80’s-style power pop in all it’s hooky glory, with some coloring shades of late-80’s indie rock guitar (think Pixies) and 90’s emo. While this album almost sounds like it could have hit on early 80’s album rock radio alongside the likes of Cheap Trick, Greg Kihn, and Tommy Tutone, the vocals and lyrics definitely identify it as a child of the 90’s, and keep it from sounding dated. Where a lot of the worst of the 80’s stuff this record takes cues from sounded forced and calculated, the emotion and sincerity in singer Jamie’s voice elevates the songs to a level those cheesy bands could never even aspire to. Take the album closer, “Divine,” for example — it’s every cheesy, bombastic radio ballad you ever heard (think REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” or Chicago’s “Baby, What a Big Surprise”), except done the right way — with honest, heartfelt sentiment and true feeling. Other recommended tracks include the hard rockin’ “Count Me Out” and “Devotion,” the beautiful, piano-driven ballad “Please Try To Understand” (think Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend”), the power ballad “Ramona,” the driving “There Goes My Mouth Again” (with some tasty vocal harmonies), and “Problems,” a simple yet beautiful arrangement of strings, piano, vocals, and glockenspiel. A fresh, exciting disc that’s been logging some serious play time on my speakers. Oh, and by the way — they absolutely smoke live, too. Pick this up and check ’em out!
Fueled By Ramen Records, P.O. Box 12563, Gainesville, FL 32604; http://www.fueledbyramen.com