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Stuck in the Sound

Second album: Shoegazing Kids


27/01/2009 - 

The buzz around hip Parisian rock band Stuck in the Sound started back in 2005 when they scored an underground hit with ToyBoy. The foursome could have gone down in music history as one-hit wonders. But Stuck in the Sound's latest album, Shoegazing Kids, confirms them as a major new fixture on France's indie rock scene.

Stuck in the Sound's debut album, Nevermind the living dead (released in 2006), featured a cover shot of a blonde toddler with her face smeared in chocolate. The band's second album, Shoegazing Kids, illustrates its teen-angst title with a photo of an adolescent girl, wearing a Stuck in the Sound T-shirt, gazing down at her shoes. A sign that Stuck in the Sound are about to grow up and leave childish things behind? One thing's for sure and that is that after six years' existence the Paris band have marked a decisive turning-point in their career with this second release.

Whereas Nevermind the living dead demonstrated Stuck in the Sound's technical prowess, showcasing the band's energy, the lyrical nature of their rock and their wild rollercoaster compositions, Shoegazing Kids is a more subtle, ambitious work. "We staked everything on emotion on this album, on the way the songs are delivered," says Stuck in the Sound's lead singer, José Reis Fontao, "By comparison, our debut album was much more about showing off what we could do."

Sound and vision

Having proved themselves on Nevermind the living dead, Stuck in the Sound were free to experiment on their second album. And they have significantly ratcheted up the volume, too, producing a powerful, hard-hitting sound rarely heard in French rock. The fact that Stuck in the Sound's second opus was mixed by the American sound engineer Nick Sansano - renowned for his work with the likes of Sonic Youth, Public Enemy and French rap stars IAM - gives Shoegazing Kids an added edge. Sansano has managed to capture the raw energy of the band's live shows and, at the same time, bring out the subtleties of their "indie rock" sound.

"We had a very clear and precise idea of how we wanted things to sound before we headed off to work with Nick in New York," says José, "We'd come up with an image or a colour for each track and Nick retranscribed our ideas perfectly, adding his own personal touch along the way. The resulting album goes way beyond our original expectations. This album has given us a real sense of achievement after all our years of hard work."

Shoegazing Kids is also a remarkably coherent album, the twelve tracks ranging from Zapruder to I Love You Dark fitting neatly together into one organic whole. "All the tracks were recorded in the same place, written more or less around the same period and mixed by the same person. So there's a real unity of time and place," explains Stuck in the Sound's bassist, Arno Bordas, "I think this is the first time in our career that we've been so chronologically in step with our material," says José, "Our last album was basically a collection of songs that had been composed over a period spanning almost three years. And by the time we came to tour them, it was clear that some of the songs had already got a bit old and stale."

Stuck in the Sound are renowned for belting out vibrant pop-rock anthems at their live shows that get audiences singing along unrestrainedly - Delicious Dog and the famous ToyBoy being two of their best to date. The band's second album includes two potential stadium-shakers, the brilliant Shoot Shoot and the enigmatic OUAIS, a sort of "dance-rock epic" lasting well over five minutes on which José demonstrates the full range of his vocal capacities, hitting some impressive high notes. "I think I've got a bit better at controlling my voice since the first album," the man in question admits, "I've come to accept that there are moments where my vocals should fade into the background a bit and be on the same level as the other instruments. That's something I've learnt from the American bands we've been listening to recently."

Teen spirit

Stuck in the Sound wear their musical influences on their sleeve on their second album, their sound bearing unmistakable traces of American and British indie bands such as The Pixies, Nirvana and The Smiths (particularly apparent on Dirty Waterfalls and the lyrical Teen Tale, one of the outstanding tracks on Shoegazing Kids). However, the Paris foursome mark themselves out from their musical mentors as well as current competitors on the rock scene with the intro and the finale on their album, both quasi instrumentals. The opening track, Zapruder, is a powerfully hypnotic affair without any sign of a traditional verse-and-chorus structure. And it sets the slightly melancholy tone for the rest of the album which is wrapped up by the highly atmospheric finale, I Love You Dark. "It's a bit like the colour of the album cover," Arno explains, "There's a sort of blue-ish tone lingering over 'Shoegazing Kids' all the way through."

Shoegazing Kids is clearly infused with teen spirit from beginning to end. "This album is designed to appeal to the sort of teenagers we were once ourselves," admits José, "Solitary angsty types!" Stuck in the Sound appear to have formed a particularly close rapport with their teenage fanbase since their last tour in 2007. "Teenagers are our hardcore fans," says José, "And I know when I was their age I'd love to have been able to talk to the bands I followed. We keep in close contact with our teenage fans, communicating a lot on social networking sites like myspace. And we always make an effort to mix with the audience after all our concerts in France." A policy Stuck in the Sound have vowed to continue on their next tour which, if attended by their fervent teen following, should be a memorable event indeed!

 Listen to an extract from Teen Tale
Stuck in the Sound Shoegazing Kids (It’s Records/Discograph) 2009
Stuck in the Sound kick off a French tour on 23 January 2009. The tour includes a date at Le Bataclan, Paris, on 6 May

Jérôme  Pichon

Translation : Julie  Street