08/07/2016, Rockwood Music Hall - Stage 1 , New York, NY

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Don’t Call It a Comeback: Stick Against Stone makes an Instant impression with a rejuvenated lineup and an all-new studio album.

Sure, we’re living in “a golden age of reissues,” as Pitchfork has so aptly put it. A prominent case in point: the recent flood of musical output surrounding ...

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Jeff Greene


All new, all original studio album features guest appearances by vocalist Freedom Bremner (Moby, Meshell Ndegeocello, Screaming Headless Torsos), pedal steel guitarist Jon Graboff (Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, David Byrne, Willie Nelson), and keyboardist Joe McGinty (Psychedelic Furs, Christopher Walken, Losers Lounge).


Thirty years in the making, INSTANT (MediaGroove, 2015) is the first true studio album by the nomadic and critically acclaimed Stick Against Stone. A hybrid melodic mashup of horn-rich noir funk, ghostly dub ballads, pulsing samba flecked with Afrobeat juice and snarling post-punk rock energy – INSTANT is a welcome time-capsule revelation that sounds startlingly fresh and on point today.

Following the acclaimed 2014 release of “The Oregon Bootleg Tapes – Live” that caught the attention of critic Robert Christgau as well as writers from New York, Pitchfork, Wax Poetics and Vibe magazines – the mixes, remixes and dubs on INSTANT revisit the same “anything goes” days of the early ‘80s – where punk rock’s bristling energy freely cross-pollenated with dub reggae, disco, African, funk, Latin and Brazilian genres – among others – and predominantly below the radar of the emerging cultural hegemon: MTV.  

Created by the powerful contralto voice of Sari Jozokos Morninghawk, guitarist Daniel Ramirez, bassist David Soule, saxophonist/flautist Robert ‘Xeres’ Shepard, and the late founding drummer Richard Vitale  – the songs of INSTANT were written in the 1980s when the band had relocated to Eugene, Oregon from their birthplace of Pittsburgh, PA (by way of Brooklyn, NY).  From their marginally employed and geographically isolated situation in Eugene – months of endless basement rehearsals would end-up sprouting a genetic strain of songs exhibiting a hybrid vigor prized by both critics and fans (although not always contemporaneously). With little money and few options, the band did record a 4-song cassette EP at a local studio (and would try again in San Francisco), but a full (and fully-realized) studio album never came to pass. Until now.

The opening title track “Instant” (an update from the Oregon Bootleg Tapes version) is a whomping funk rock/disco workout (with deep-soul backing vocals by Bremner) that tells the tale of a woman on the run from an abusive relationship – doubting herself, doubting her friends, and looking for answers. “Breaking Habits” (with two monster ghost-dub remixes by DJ Soy Sos and haunting vocal harmony backing by Bremner) also asks questions about human foibles, but finds them elusive as well, floating on standout performances by Morninghawk, deep and dubwise Soule, evocative Ramirez and guest keyboardist Joe McGinty – bringing his best fat analog synths, Studio One-style upright piano and ethereal Augustus Pablo-style melodica.

The mood turns even more spare and stripped-down, as Morninghawk and guest pianist Brittany Anjou duet on a version of the gorgeous ballad “Grace” – where dreams find eventual destruction but hope also rises like kites on a warm breeze (it’s also given the version treatment, with the original chiming guitar/bass post-punk epic rock-out, and a bumping, deep house dance mix delivered by DJ Soy Sos).  Also back from the OBT album is “The Hopping Frog” – a mutant ska / post-punk romp, now with minimalist piano “tonk” (minus the honky) chord repetitions that would not sound out of place in Steve Reich’s “Six Pianos.” Perhaps the strangest tune is the 5/4 syncopated hypnosis of “Mom’s a Bunji” – a loopy Afropop meets cowboy twang groove richly decorated by the swooning pedal steel guitar of Jon Graboff and the duel guitar/bass unison lines of Ramirez and Soule. The ebullient, yet harmonically wry (at times) horn lines (arranged by young sax phenom Danny Lipsitz and written by Morninghawk) are straight up West African Highlife coconut water that makes the somewhat sappy lyrical journey about fledgling self-discovery and mom’s elastic, unconditional love go down with a sweetness.

Finally –  the song that best captures the seamless integration of the band’s disparate influences, their signature anthem:  “Wasted Lives” – with this version digging deep into the samba feel of the original – melding dancing Afrobeat and tremolo fuzz-rock guitars with swaggering James Bond/ ‘60s style brass to its life-affirming message. Propelled by the muscular and effervescent stick work of internationally renowned drummer Harvey Wirht (a Surinam-native who’s played with Angelique Kidjo, Hassan Hakmoun, Ziggy Marley, Leni Stern, and Either/Orchestra) – the irrepressible optimism of “Wasted Lives” crushes doubts like windshield screen bugs at a freeway clip.

All in, INSTANT takes us on a journey through the backpages and songbook flavors of a band that is back again “As if by magic…” as Robert Christgau said.  Thirty years from their inception, these songs have finally arrived – not on a turntable or cassette deck, but to the cloud – and hopefully,  to live stages and a new generation of fans.

Dispatch Details

Doors Open:
7:30 PM
Concert Start Time:
8:00 PM
Rockwood Music Hall - Stage 1
Venue St. Address:
196 Allen St
Venue City, State:
New York, NY
Venue Zip:
Venue Link: