The latest eponymous release from STAG combines songs from their two out of print EPs, 2010's "These Times Are for All of Us" and 2011's "Paper Crown" with new material the band put together to fill out the remainder of the album. Drawing from influences as varied as the Beatles, Guided by Voices and Cheap Trick, STAG manages to craft upbeat, power-pop and bouncy ballads that are familiar enough to draw you in and unique enough to keep you coming back for more.
Songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Ben London is a damn fine songwriter, questioning the disinterest of his peers in "These Times" and admitting the real reason he stays with his less-than-sweetheart in the track titled "Records." The full band is just as talented, with Steve Mack handling lead vocals like a latter-day Robert Pollard in "Chameleon" and putting his twist on Roger Daltrey's delivery with "Tiffany Rose." The rest of the band is rounded out with Pete Everett handling the bass lines while Lincoln Barr wrangles the guitar and Rob Dent pounds the skins. The agile band moves seamlessly from the poppy love ballad "Don't Lead With Your Heart" to the '60s throwback bubblegum of "Paper Crown" and the bombastic rock of "Ides of March" and the Bay City Rollers-esque "Don't Call Me Tonight."
The one thing that stuck with me while listening to this album is that regardless of the tone or intent of the individual songs, the band obviously has fun doing what they love. Capturing the energy of a live show is difficult thing to nail down in the studio, but STAG seems to catch just enough of that feeling to make you take notice. Listening to Mack belt out the refrain of "Get the Message" immediately made me think, "This would be amazing to experience live." There are only a handful of bands that I've seen perform live that were there to have fun rather than just play a gig -- the Dead Girls from Lawrence, Kans. and Canada's own Rural Alberta Advantage, for instance -- but if I manage to catch STAG the next time they roll through town, I just might be adding another band to that list.
"STAG" will be released on December 4, 2012 on Fin Records.