Don’t Check Out


Independent release, 2016

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


The description “melodious, catchy, and upbeat ‘80s-influenced pop music” would fit a plethora of indie albums released these days. This will also be a fitting description of LA-based duo StaG’s third release, Don’t Check Out. However, there are also aspects of this album that are absolutely unique to this band, aspects that fundamentally define the sound of this album: the copious amounts of guitars and their garage-rock messiness, the crude lyrics, and lead singer Matthew McGuire’s snarky “I don’t care” confidence in delivering these lyrics.

Yes, there is an element of juvenile and punkish crudeness that has comfortably made its home in this duo’s music. And the beauty of this band is how they package this indignant and irreverent nonconforming side of theirs into clean and super-catchy danceable songs that are eager to conform. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The track “Narcissist,” for instance, is built on swaggering bass lines that are reminiscent of The Knack’s “My Sharona” with lyrics that are absurd and grotesquely funny, (including “It’s me jerking off to the thought of myself” to describe the protagonist’s narcissism with total self-assuredness). Or take the lead single and opening track “Colorado/Suicidal,” which is irresistibly upbeat with its cathartic slap-in-the-face vocals. The chorus “Let us go back to Colorado when I was suicidal” is sung with celebratory angst, possibly referring to the duo’s college days at the University of Colorado.

This not-so-flattering feeling of nostalgia and self-deprecating snarky humor forms the backbone of Don’t Check Out, which in turn was inspired by the title track that was originally written as a sad ballad about the mediocrity of life. But when you listen to this song, its bouncy ebullience would have you believe otherwise. Similarly, the rest of the album takes us through this journey of awkwardness in the form of tracks – some stating the obvious in the title itself, like “Loneliness Comes” and “I Don’t Belong Here” – that will make you dance.

StaG doesn’t try to hide their quirkiness; in fact, they celebrate it. Afterall, this is an album that has not one, but two songs – “Narcissist” and “I Never Saw Another” – unashamedly referring to one’s “member!” But there is absolutely no silliness in the musical maturity with which they express the rather silly themes on this album. Don’t Check Out is unique. It is thematically goofy, but musically, it is nothing less than a serious masterpiece.

Rating: A

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