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Welcoming Home The Astronauts
226 Records

Long before VH1 dreamed up their new reality based TV show, Bands On The Run, Flickerstick was Dallas' best kept secret. According to an article published by the Dallas Observer in 1999, these boys were well on their way to making their mark long before the VH1 suits came a sniffin'.

That's right naysayers, this band did it the old fashioned way, one fan at a time, one show at a time. They went from being a relatively unknown Fort Worth band, to selling out Trees, in Dallas' trendy art district, Deep Ellum, almost overnight—without even having a record out. Presumably, they sunk what little money they had into developing their jaw-dropping live show. They built their following organically, purely from word of mouth.

That said, if I hear one more person compare these boys to O-my-gawd-there's-no-way-this-can-be-construed-as-music-in-any-TOWN, I will straight up get mid-evil on everyone. Don't be mistaken, this band fashioned their fate. Of course being on TV every Sunday night for 15 weeks didn't hurt, but the foundation was already there. These guys would have succeeded with or without the show.

If you listen to record in it's entirety, this band is in the midst of an identity crisis, or so it seems. The British influence is undeniable. Exactly half of the record resounds of Brit-pop, and the other half is Flickerstick showin' they can shoegaze with the best of em'. The contrast is so dramatic at times; it literally sounds like you're listening to two different bands. Upon closer inspection what you're actually hearing is audio documentation of a band finding and refining their own unique voice. While most bands take time to amass their own sound and evolve from record to record (ie. Radiohead: Pablo Honey to The Bends to OK Computer), this band has seemingly evolved within the same record—sometimes within the same song ("Lift").

With sugary-coated songs like, "Coke", "Beautiful", "Chlorform (the one you love)" and "Talk Show Host" it's obvious these boys have mastered the art of writing the three-minute hook. However, by the later part of the record with songs like, "Sorry Wrong Trajectory" and "Direct Line To The Telepathic", the band has discovered a whole new set of psychedelic brushes to paint with. Sure, I've heard the comparisons to Radiohead, U2 and Pink Floyd and truth be told, it's not hard to see where the comparisons come from (especially the Pink Floyd-esque guitar lines at the 4:53 mark of "Direct Line To The Telepathic", or the U2-esque intro of "Got a Feeling"). However, if you listen closer, it's evident these guys have taken their influences and taken the time to meld them into their own unique sound. Listening to Brandin Lea's silky tenor, he sounds less dramatically overstated and far more hopeful than Thom Yorke ever has. Rock critics are notoriously lazy. If anyone can sing in a higher register, automatically they get compared to Yorke. If a band plays music that is even remotely cerebral, all of the sudden they're the next Radiohead. If a guitarist uses effects like delay, automatically they sound like The Edge. Even though Flickerstick is sure to be dogged by comparison, when you think about it, it's really not bad company to be in.

The most memorable songs on this record—or at least the one's you won't be able to get out of your head—are the hook-laden, infectious, "Beautiful" and "Coke". Both are sure to be released as consecutive singles when the album is reissued in October.

The best moments on the record are the epic songs: "Sorry Wrong Trajectory" and "Direct Line To The Telepathic", when the band shows they not only have a keen grasp on writing hooks but have also mastered the art of dynamics and ambience. The latter's smart use of sound effects only enhances the recording (the mono vocals on the opening verse, over a sample of a record on a turntable and the sample of someone taking a hit from a water bong) and makes for some pretty damn fine headphone rock.

The weakest links on this record are easily the psuedo-anthemic, "Hey or When The Drugs Wear Off" and "You're So Hollywood". The latter's chorus, complete with gang vocals and hand claps, just oozes with an '80s cock-rock shtick and combined with Lea's poorly executed attempt to affect a British accent ("...don't want to sell my record collect-she-un..") makes both of these songs throwaway tracks. Seems to me, these earlier works are present on the record merely as filler. When the album is reissued in October, hopefully the addition of new songs like, "Smile" and "Execution By Christmas Lights" will replace these weak sisters.

The only other parts of this record that make this a less than stellar debut, are the lyrical inconsistencies. Some of the songs are obtuse and weighed down with the ever present hackneyed rock cliches( "Well it's a common attraction / Searching for the night club scene.... And you're looking for some action / With your flash bulb eyes tonight / You're so Hollywood / You're so Hollywood she said"--from "You're So Hollywood"). While others ("Sorry...wrong trajectory / Combat is a part of our chemistry / Could you control me if you tried.. " -- from "Sorry Wrong Trajectory") seem more focused and unconventional.

If this band can live up to the hype that has preceded them, then this album will serve merely as a jumping off point. Epic couldn't be more calculating by simply re-mastering this record and capitalizing on the momentum the band already has. In fact, they'd be foolish not to. It will be interesting to see what Tom Lord-Alge does with the mix—as overall, this record already sounds pretty amazing on it's own. Whether their best work is still ahead of them or they become bargain-bin fodder remains to be seen, one thing is certain though: Flickerstick will be one tough act to follow.


Track Listing:

1. Lift (with Love We Will Survive)
2. Talk Show Host
3. Chlorform (the One You Love)
4. Coke
5. Beautiful
6. Sorry...Wrong Trajectory
7. You're So Hollywood
8. Got a Feeling
9. Hey or When the Drugs Wear Off
10. Right Way To Fly
11. Direct Line To the Telepathic

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