Review: Stag’s ‘Midtown Sizzler’ is just what this summer needs

Most of us that are over a certain age have those friends that always say they’d listen to more new music but no one is making good music anymore. The truth is that there is plenty of good, even great music still being made and those of us that haven’t given up on seeking it out are constantly rewarded for our efforts.  A band I stumbled upon earlier this year had me hooked from the first note I heard. The band is called Stag and they call the northwest home, although if you didn’t know it, you might think they were British and that their new album to be released August 4, Midtown Sizzler was actually recorded in the seventies.

The bands I would most compare Stag with would probably be glam-rock Gods The Sweet, or perhaps E.L.O. although there is a lot to like on this album for fans of Todd Rundgren as well, especially the seventh track on the 8-track release. “Pictures” is a rock ballad that features great piano chops and although the tempo rises a little, it never ventures far from the intro played on the ivories. This song would have been an arena-crushing, tears-streaming-down-the-cheeks, lighters-in-the-air anthem had it come out four decades ago but there’s no reason we can’t enjoy it even today.

The first song on the album is called “Pharaoh” and  wastes no time in showing the listener what is in store. Bright, stadium-filling sized electric guitar starts it off before giving way to clean vocals from Steve Mack. The next track is straight out of the playbook from Rod Stewart with The Faces from the early 70s. Mack’s powerful vocals drive the number with just the right amount of guitar to help it along.

The third song is the first one I heard from this band back in January when we premiered it on this website. “Bedazzler” is pretty much what you’d think it should sound like based on the name alone. It’s another song on the album that literally could have been recorded across the pond at another place in time and you’d never be the wiser. You’d certainly never guess it is from a Seattle band and released in 2017. That’s another thing I like about this band, they help to further break the stereotype about what Seattle or northwest bands are supposed to sound like. The lyrics of this one talk of flamboyance and the bright-colored music is flamboyant to match. The song clocks in at 3:44 and comes equipped with a potent lead break, actually a couple of them, not quite 3 minutes in the song it builds into a showdown between the guitars and a brilliant horn section and stays in that pocket until it closes. Epic stuff indeed.

Most of their new eight song Midtown Sizzler was recorded with John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Hold Steady, Kurt Vile) at Water Studios in Hoboken, NJ. As Mr. Agnello says, “They contacted me and I checked out their music and I loved it! They have all these wonderful influences of music I love. They write great melodies and they know hooks. It’s a pleasure working with strong characters with strong opinions who are also open to outside ideas.”

Two songs (pre-single “The Bedazzler” and “Runner”) were recorded with Jack Endino at Soundhouse in Seattle, and mixed by Martin Feveyear on Vashon Island. The players on the album are Steve Mack on vocals with Ben London on guitar and backing vocals. Also on guitar is John Randolph and Rob Dent sits behind the drumkit and Pete Everett holds down bass duties. They are a super tight unit that clearly had these songs down to a science before hitting the studio. Another thing that sets this album apart is the songwriting by Ben London, who penned eight accessible tunes loaded with hooks and riffs.

Now all the talk about the album sounding a bit nostalgic is not a bad thing in any way at all. It fits in just fine with the world we live in today and doesn’t feel dated, it’s a fun and energetic album to listen to all the way through and just what this summer needs. That said, if this had come out in say, 1973, or if people still bought music the way they did back then, it would be a world-wide smash.  Do yourself a favor and grab this album when you get a chance, you won’t regret it.

(Listen to Midtown Sizzler via Soundcloud and you can get more info about Stag at their website HERE.)