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Stuck - We're Stuck

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Artist: Stuck

Album: We're Stuck

Label: Sticky Mess Music

Review date: Jan. 29, 2003

Music for a Martini Lounge on Mars

With jazzy, out there semi-pop songs dominated by intricate rhythms thanks to the use of Chapman Stick in conjunction with the drums, Stuck showcase a quirky sense of humor in conjunction with excellent technical chops. Vocalist Chisa's words are generally the centerpiece around which everything else revolves; she even duets with trombone at times.

The songs are poppy and accessible, yet always with a bit of an edge. "Fantastic Secret" starts thing off with a jazzy tune, Chisa's vocals enticing the listener. The introduction, mixing rhythmic vocal chants with the combined drums-and-Chapman-Stick interplay, gives things a King Crimson feel, but then the song settles in and we encounter the band's pattern of combining complexity with appealing vocal/instrumental melodies. Chisa duets with Stick/horn player Pat Cahill and bassist/trombonist Matt Pavolka, while Alex Fortuit keeps things moving on drums. Vocal/instrumental interplay is a recurring motif on the album, whether it be rhythmic chanting in time with Cahill's Stick playing or melodic countering between Chisa and the horn section.

"Let's Get Naked" is playful, a lightweight tune punctuated with sharp jabs of guitar and fat horns in and around Chisa's whispery singing. "I Don't Understand" is a calm song with gently phasing strings over clattering percussion, with Chisa actually sounding a bit like Bjork. It's peaceful and even a bit grandiose in a dramatic way. Speaking of grandiose, "Hypnosis" kicks out the jams with heavy effected bass and heavier percussion that slaps you out of the way as Chisa intones her words with an almost dismissive feel, only to get all dramatic during the chorus. Meanwhile, "Love Baby, Love" is downtown jazzy in feel, walking bass and drums working together while the voice and horn echo each other. Partway in the wah-guitar kicks in and things get funky, then suddenly at the end of the song the group show their innate goofiness with a country hoedown break.

"Sushi" continues with the light-hearted tone as Chisa starts rapping about eating sushi over squishy bass and pseudo-oriental keyboards. "One Voice" is another jazzy number, while the two-part "Her Light" goes through a brief cacophonous introduction before developing into a happy little horn-led vamp, and then moving to a dramatic song driven by deep bass and alternating wah guitar and piano.

Probably the best song here, "Goin' Out" hits with a higher energy level immediately, which is quite welcome, though it smooths out a bit later on with some dramatic, held horn notes. Chisa's vocals here have that sing-song Bjorkish quality again, over echoing guitarish chimes and metallic, clattering drums. The break partway in with flute (courtesy of Judi Silvano) is terrific, floating notes above it all while the drums and bass really let go.

Listeners eager for jazzy pop tunes that knowingly flirt with musical cliches only to suddenly toss them out the window should find a lot to like here. You'll have to possess some love of goofiness and a sense of humor to really latch onto Stuck, but if that's you, here you go.

By Mason Jones

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