Comin' Back Again
Independent release, 2005
REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/04/2006
So many independent artists present themselves with obvious strengths and weaknesses. The songs are good but the production lacks something. The guitarist is great but the drummer stinks. The singer wows you but the arrangements all sound the same. Etc.
And then there are those rare indie artists who seem to emerge fully formed from the ether with just about every little detail -- hooks, vocals, arrangements, production -- in place and ready to blow up your radio. Indie artists like Jake Stigers.
The potential is obvious from the first frenetic, wah-wah’d chords of the propulsive opener “Do You Feel High?” -- a whack-your-forehead-and-say-“Duh!” first single if ever you’ve heard one. The fat riffs ring, the chorus sticks in your head like epoxy, the vocals layer nicely on the bridge and you want to check your Billboard charts just to make sure this one isn’t already there. Nope, not yet…
On the basis of that one song it might be tempting to write Stigers off as a talented but slightly lightweight pop-rock hit-slinger, but as this disc progresses he mixes things up nicely. “Another Negotiation” adds grit, matching a Replacements sound with a snarly, fed-up lyric. In contrast, “Only Wanna Be With You” mixes muted, dreamy guitars with ooey love lyrics in a Peter Frampton-meets-Semisonic pastiche whose rich tone also reminded me of indie fave Bryan Master.
Next up is the simply fantabulous “We Don’t Need Anybody,” in which Stigers blends crunchy Jet-meets-Brendan Benson melodic rock with a little Southern sass in the vocals and stabbing riffs that would make Keith Richards grin. Stigers also wins music trivia bonus points here for quoting “Rockin’ Pneumonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu,” a hit for Huey “Piano” Smith in 1957 and again for Johnny Rivers in 1972.
So for the title track you were maybe expecting more muscular power-pop? Well, “Comin’ Back Again” does have big guitars, but it’s actually a pretty restrained and pleasantly bittersweet ballad. From there the highlights include the mid-tempo thrum of “Don’t Know Where I Belong” and the driving, authoritative rocker “That Ain’t Livin’.” Also of note is the entertaining curveball “Marlena,” which finds Stigers transformed into a dusky-nightclub r&b singer, his falsetto going down smoother than a pitcher of cheap margaritas.
There’s so much surface appeal to Comin’ Back Again that it’s easy to give Stigers a pass on lyrics that are maybe an eight out of ten -- solid and often clever, just not super-duper transcendently insightful. In terms of sound and arrangements and riffs and vocals, though, singer-songwriter Stigers and co-producer/guitarist Nunzio Signore hit a home run just about every time out here. “”Do You Feel High?” has already gotten airplay on New York’s famed Q104 FM, and what happens from there feels as inevitable as a catchy chorus.