Featuring the Walking Papers’ pairing of guitarist / singer Jeff Angell and keysman Benjamin Anderson (along with Post Stardom Depression drummer Joshua Fant), Staticland has been formed in downtime while Papers’ bassist Duff McKagan is off occupied with his reinstatement in the most dangerous band in the world. And while the rock world is grateful to see Axl, Slash and Duff back on stage together again, what this album offers is another reason to welcome the Guns n’ Roses semi-reunion; for ‘Jeff Angell’s Staticland’ is a revelation.
Containing a mix of styles; from hard rock to soul to gospel to industrial, all performed with conviction and tied together by the inspired production of the Grammy award winning Vance Powell, what Staticland have produced is one of the most satisfying listens thus far this year.
Kicking off with the Black Keys meets Deep Purple hard rockin’ blues of ‘Everything Is Wrong’, what’s immediately clear is just how powerful Staticland sound. Although not ‘heavy’ in the conventional sense, this album is sonically HUGE. This is ‘big’ music, epic in proportion without ever being overwhelming, and from here - tender moments like the minimalist ‘Let The Healing Begin’ notwithstanding – until the closing tones of ‘Freak’ (more of which, later) it’s powerful stuff.
Veering from upbeat to introspective, there’s a mix of tones prevalent throughout, and while such a diverse collection could be viewed as erratic, here, nothing is jarring. So while there’s a menacing edge to both ‘Band-Aid On A Bullet Hole’ - which is propelled along by the dark urgency of Fant’s beat, and the prowling ‘If You Only Knew’, the latter is countered by a gloriously uplifting soulful vocal form Angell.
In contrast, ‘The World Is Gonna Win’ fully uncages the frontman’s inner soul man. A restrained slow blues, with background Hammond organs and Angell’s low down drawl, it’s music for hazy evenings in the sun. It’s simply beautiful, and like ‘Let The Healing Begin’ which closes the album, it reveals the softer side of their monstrous sound.
Elsewhere, there’s an industrial edge to the likes of ‘Phantom Limb’, which is betrayed only by another emotive vocal and, like the rest of the album, a keen sense of melody. ‘High Score’ too, nudges post-1990 U2, with its dirty fuzz guitar lines.
It’s the widescreen epic ‘Freak’ however, that offers Staticland’s standout moment. Cinematic in both scope and sound, it’s a melancholic lament that drives along on a self-conscious groove, where measured beats meet subtle keys and haunting guitars. Positively dripping with pain; “I just need some time alone to think” croons Angell over its reflective soundscapes.
All of which contribute to Staticland’s overall aesthetic as a contemporary rock album that touches on myriad genres without ever relying on simply aping them. Speaking of the absence of McKagan that led to it, Angell says; “I like to think of this record as taking an obstacle and turning it to an opportunity. It's an invitation to roll the dice”. It’s a gamble that’s paid off. Take your time, Duff, there’s no rush.
By Eamon O'Neill on 24th April 2016.