STAGE FRITE - BEHIND THE EVIL MIND
Stage frite - ‘Behind The Evil Mind’ Released: 4th November 2022 Reviewed by Kate, 25th November 2022 Stage Frite are: Vinny -vocals Clive - bass/backing vocals Joe - guitar/backing vocals Steve - drums/backing vocals Alan Wilson - Keyboard on ‘Uprising’ Released by Western Star Records. I was outside a pub in South London, enjoying a late night breath of cancerous air, when a man dressed as a swan with a silky g-string around his neck told me it was illegal to wear my Batmobile t-shirt. That was my introduction to Stage Frite. The reason I was at the aforementioned pub was because it was Psychobilly Freakout festival, and Stage Frite were performing in the time slot just before the mighty Long Tall Texans. One of their stage antics is to encourage wrecking and tomfoolery via their friend / mascot who dresses as a swan and riles up the crowd. Their sound, named by the band as ‘Swanabilly’ (a reference to their origins in the Norfolk Broads), leaps from ‘Psychobilly [and] punk to rockabilly and metal’, and they produce music which is completely unique in a scene where it’s easy to follow the footprints laid by others. Stage Frite are completely and unashamedly themselves and it’s brilliant. This sixth album is a huge step up from their previous work, and it’s a gloriously lurid tabloid-esque murder album with their own brand of dark humour and a lot of old school psycho stomping. They don’t shy away from potentially upsetting themes, so if you are sensitive to issues like intimate partner violence or murder then perhaps just stick to ‘Uprising’… Let’s take a journey behind the evil mind… How The Mighty Fall: Powerful opening guitar chords give a taste of things to come and there’s a fabulous click on the classic Psychobilly slap bass. I love Vinny’s vocals on this modern morality tale: think Billy Bragg crossed with a post-apocalyptic newsreader, intoning disasters across the airwaves. The echoes on his vocals too combined with a screaming guitar solo add a sense of gravitas to proceedings. It’s clear that Stage Frite intend on being taken seriously on this record. House of Bodies: Stage Frite take us on a tour of a crime scene, with ‘bodies…rotting in the bathtub!’. It’s been a bit of a research fest to identify the murder references in this album, and I feel they’ve been listening to true crime podcasts on John Haigh or Dennis Nilsen to get inspired. The callout of ‘bodies!’ is oddly triumphant and we’re all going to be shouting it at their next show over the hardcore drumming. Old Man West: Probably the best, if only, song about Fred West ever written. There’s a country twang on the refrain ‘Stay out of the cellar or be dead like the rest’, and a jaunty sixties beat mitigates the gruesome subject matter. Banshee: Possibly my favourite song on the record, mostly for the glorious buildup at the start and the punk guitar. They’re going full tilt on this one, with Frenzy-style bass and blistering drumming to build up the horror and tension. Overspill: A slower, moodier number about silent, lurching zombies. I love the narrative building on this one, and it’s creepy in a cartoon’s halloween special kind of way. It’s time to mention the cute/creepy dichotomy which Stage Rite are using in spades on this record: they can do the nicest, sweetest tunes loaded with disturbing lyrics, or songs which could have easily been love songs with a little tweak, but are instead slightly disturbing. It’s a lovely, smokey tune about the downfall of humanity. Behind The Evil Mind: The title track could also have been called ‘how to spot a Hannibal Lector-style murderer’. Choppy guitar cuts over a jumpy bass to keep us on our toes to build a wretched portrait of evil. Lonesome Whiskey Blues: a bluesy number with gentle guitar about a cheating woman…which builds into a brutal murder tale of killing your lover while drunk. There’s that tick-tock bass popularised by the likes of the Doppelgängers creeping in, and very carefully this song gets faster and faster until it culminates in a gunshot. Very smart and every single note is important. Alice: A portrait of a victim of intimate partner violence that’s equal parts horror and triumph as the title character leaves her abuser. The brutal guitar matches the theme and leaves no sympathy for Alice’s attacker, and the jumps between maximum and minimum sound walls are so very effective. Creepy n Pervy: The title says it all…it’s the tale of a trench-coat-wearing, cross-dressing menace to society. The evil laughs and high notes creeping on the guitar like a tarantula make this one another beautifully written, if unsettling, listen. Their trademark black humour is painted all over this track which takes it out of serious horror and more into Hammer Horror territory, especially when rhyming ‘vicar’ with ‘knickers’. Uprising: It’s a cover! Of Muse! While the original, like all Muse songs, is a space opera waiting to happen, this is the sound of a very British revolution. The organ is perfect, the bass is a call to arms, and they’ve taken the essence of the original and distilled it into a riot. Big love goes to the way they’ve extended the ‘hey, hey’, which barely features in the Muse song, and made it into a big feature. Gonna Take You Home: They’re walking the line between cute and creepy again so effectively in this minimal country number. ‘Gonna take you home and love you’ could be such a nice line, but at this point it gives you a bit of a sinking feeling….this isn’t going to be pleasant, despite the lively western vibes. #Hardbitch: And now for a punkabilly tune with powerful bass and distortion for days. The subject of the title is an unnamed online hate-monger, perhaps the litigious figure who shares a form of my first name. When Stage Frite do slow, lecherous country, they’re very good, but when they do the tight, fast numbers with the tempo of a panic attack they are absolutely tremendous. Gospel of a Sleazebag: I have a weakness for literally named things (such as Bank station in London, which is next to the Bank of England). They start with an a cappella, gospel opener, which bounds into country territory but with punk breakdowns. If a Wheeler Walker Jr character never gave up his lady slayin’ ways, moved to Norfolk and annoyed Stage Rite to the extend they wrote a song to mock him, this would be it. Cluckers: Referred to in one of my group chats as ‘the funny chicken song’, this song reminds us all to expect the unexpected from Stage Frite. Who would have guessed a comedy song about three legged chickens would jump into this album? Big Pat Winn: Starting with a ‘radio clip’ about there not being enough Swanabilly on the album, the swan song of this album is in the classic Stage Frite sound with echoing vocals, rural subjects, sixties guitar and as much bass click as you can handle. Big Pat Winn must be a real person and I can think of far worse ways to be immortalised than this song. Of course, if we hadn’t learned from the last song about eclectic nature of a Stage Frite record, they’ve chosen to end with ‘radio clip’ describing the band. This is not just the best Stage Frite album to date. It’s also one of the best new albums I’ve heard in the last few months. It’s clever, it’s strange, it’s unsettling…but it’s also very danceable and you’ll end up sucked into the world of the swanabillies after about thirty seconds of listening. They’re doing something original, darkly comic and very interesting, and you need to go and see them live before a man dressed as a swan makes the decision for you and chases you into the venue.