Underneath the Beer Light
Born and bred on a barstool, Stickpony's third release plays like a sociological case study of the hard-drinking nightlife and its resulting wreckage. Since 2001, the local quintet has faced an Aerosmith-sized list of maladies, including a catastrophic illness that nearly claimed the life of songwriter/guitarist Brit Jones and the departure of every founding member except him. Subsequently, it isn't hard to detect a wizened resignation to The Way Things Are in this 10-song testimonial. Stickpony's twang-laden drunk rock may reek of beer and cigarettes, but its slurred, growling guitar draws you in with open arms and a total lack of pretense. The begrudged camaraderie behind drinking songs such as "Friends Like These" and "Drunk Waiting to Happen" is just what you need upon returning to the familiar fold after getting fired or dumped. The jaunty "Painkillers" trades one vice for another, extrapolating on the oft-irresistible allure of prescribed analgesia, while "Only One" succumbs to destructive romance in a blaze of fleeting glory. The Hickoids are an obvious touchstone for Stickpony, and they pay reverent tribute to the Austin cowpunk legends with "TX Tabloid (Hickoid Wannabe)." They also pay respects to the honky-tonk heartbreaker Lefty Frizzell with a cover of "Little Ol' Winedrinker Me." While it's all somewhat depressing at face value, once Jones & Co. start railing against all that darkness, a sense of bemused exhalation sets in. Or maybe that's just the Pearl talking.
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