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Stiff Staff - 'Mean Machine' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/f9/18/db/stiff-staff-mean-machine-57-1462735866.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     May 08, 2016    
 
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A fast-paced album of only nine tracks, loudly reminiscent of the Glam Rock of the eighties.

There's cowbells, thickly-layered backing vocals, girls crying out and a roughed up, charming quality to the production. Is it a Pretty Boy Floyd demo? No, it's Stiff Staff with their debut album 'Mean Machine'.

Okay, so they don't quite have the panache or the unforgettable hooks to match the pretty boys from Hollywood, but Stiff Staff do have all the sexually-charged lyrics and cringe-inducing stage names. It's a fast-paced album of only nine tracks, loudly reminiscent of the Glam Rock of the eighties. The production is a little unbalanced but charming in its demo-like quality and there's so many hooks layered through the songs, both from lead guitar and the rhythm section, that the songs have a flamboyant, frolicking feel.

'Scream My Name' feels more immature and "in your face" than classic eighties arrogance, or maybe it's just that the same sort of lyrics and flashy stage names don't work anymore. 'Downtown Love' is more successful in this respect; a kicking, punchy ride that keeps throwing out new rhythms and has a chorus that begs to be played on the dance floor of the Rock clubs still out there. 'Stayin' Young' is another good one, mixing emotion and Rock in the same vein as Tyketto. No, wait, that's because it IS the same.

Vocalist Randy Andy struts his way up and down this album and sure, there's a lot of style there and an edgy, rasping quality to his voice. But on a lot of the tracks, it feels like he's pitched too low, lacking the range to add variety and lacking the stamina to hit the screams or the long notes. The backing vocals make up for this a little – harmonised, staggered and layered, this album has them all. But it's still an album where you can't help but feel the lead vocals are taking more of a back seat.

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Title track 'Mean Machine' is rather simple in its structure and rhythm; the lyrics throw out some references to Crashdiet, Def Leppard, Warrant and the like. The album feels a bit of a mash of recycled material where they could do something original and fresh.

There are parts of this album that shout out to the listener, like the flashing fly-by guitar licks and classically Sleazy solos, perhaps because they are more understated, clouded by overly-crude lyrics that are used so apparently seriously that they would make Steel Panther blush.

This album stands somewhere between asking to be taken seriously while shouting at the top of their voice that they're not. Unlike PBF, I'm not sure they've found that balance yet.

Sophie Brownlee

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