Stairwell – The Sounds of Change

Stairwell
The Sounds of Change

It’s pretty ballsy to name your record something prophetic. I mean, for Refused to name their swan song, The Shape of Punk to Come, they had to bring it or be ridiculed. Thankfully, they had the shit to back up their swagger and released a classic hardcore album.
Stairwell, likewise, have chosen a weighty and daunting title for their debut album, albeit with less inspiring results. The music is clean indie pop (with the emphasis on pop) similar to all the bands from Midtown to MXPX that write up-tempo, spunky songs about girls.
For what its worth, Stairwell can write a catchy tune that’s got hooks and sweet vocals. The entire CD could fit easily into any commercial rock radio playlist. The opener “Disaster” compels a sing-along, and there are several similar cuts throughout the disc. The Sounds of Change is a prime example of an over-produced pop rock record. Everything is glossy and tight, with an excess of back up vocals, harmonies, and bouncy beats. The best example of this is “Boxcar” (not a Jawbreaker cover), with the hook “You really got it going / A really nice shot / That’s pointed at me.” It’s a feel good summer hit.
“Boxcar” in addition to being the standout, also illuminates Stairwell’s biggest contradiction and flaw. The song is seemingly an anthem deriding conformity. However, Stairwell is truly guilty of this vice.
They are conformist by replicating a proven sound done by so many others. They are commencing down a path already well tread. In these days of mass media and the proliferation of rock groups, it’s so important to stand out and do something different. Stairwell, still young, haven’t quite gotten the hang of this yet. The positive aspect of this disc is that Stairwell can write a decent pop song. If this CD is anything, it is commercial and easily marketable. If their goal is to create accessible and radio-ready pop then they have succeeded. Wish them luck though, because they will have to fight through a pit of like-minded and similar sounding bands to make it to the top of the charts.