erasing clouds

The Stairs, Chime Away EP

reviewed by dave heaton

Pundits who talk about the death of rock n' roll are looking in the wrong places. Rock is dead at the Grammys, it's dead on your radio and on your cable TV. It's moved back into basements and garages, back into the bar down the street. The most creative and exciting rock music is coming from bands who aren't trying to be stage idols, who don't care if they're on the cover of Rolling Stone or get to date Drew Barrymore.

The best rock right now comes from a few talented musicians getting together at somebody's house and playing, coming up with songs they care about and playing them loudly and proudly for their neighbors and friends. Then sometimes they'll record, and spread the love around on a cheaply made CD. The Stairs' Chime Away EP is one such CD - a turn it up loud and sing your heart out type recording made with out-and-out passion for playing music. The Stairs have a sound that you know is familiar, yet it sounds completely fresh and alive: Killer melodies, no-holds-barred energy, lyrics both surreal and emotional, a style vaguely indebted to the 1960s, a friendly rusticness, and a tendency to occasionally explore their inner Pink Floyd.

Chime Away is top-heavy, maybe, opening with three of its best tracks. First there's the infectious rockers "The Aunts & Uncle of Three" and "Stop Me, Stop Me, Stop Me Before I Get Creative." Then there's perhaps my favorite, the country-afternoon, sensitive ballad "Memory School," which starts off pretty and then perfectly rocks its sadness into a drunken singalong/feedback jam. But even after those three there's several real gems, like the Dark Ages power crunch "I Make Maps".

None of the eight songs on this EP (an EP in name only...36 minutes with the weight of an album) are slight or unfinished. Chime Away may be a CDR that most people will never see in their local music store, but it's as substantial and memorable as just about anything in the Rock/Pop section. Keep an eye on The Stairs, they're creating magic under the radar.


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