You gotta be really smart to be this dumb. The Stoves have it in spades, this dumb, even before you hear a note of their album New England: titles like “Let’s Do It,” “(I’m) Violent,” and “Only Hard” greet you from the album cover. You know what you’re getting.
And damn, it’s refreshing. Seriously: the basest elements are what drives rock music. The urge to just thud along to a four / four beat and yell along with everyone else is what keeps music going, the communal experience of it. All these bedroom recording projects are well and good, but the live setting remains the most important aspect of delivering music. The immediacy is amplified by catchiness: the function of a pop song, after all, is to get stuck in one’s head so said one needs to buy the record and play the damn song to purge the pop. Then, since the record has been purchased, you have to listen to it again. And in that live setting, the first time around, if you know how the chorus goes by the end of the song then something is being done right, right?
Like I said, the Stoves are really dumb: by the end of “(I’m) Sick,” a first-time listener knows how the entire song goes, and is laughing along the entire time. Is there a tacit agreement between the band and the audience that the whole thing’s tongue-in-cheek? Why, no. Not at all. They are sick of your shit. They do have a pen pal. Farm donkeys do look like horses. These are guys who grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons and lamenting Canadian hockey’s move to the South. Their songs return them (and, by proxy, their listeners) to a simpler time, before jobs and mortgages and kids, when the roll of a twenty-sided die or a game going to double overtime (pre-shootout rules, dawg) were the most important events of the day. And the agreement between the band and the audience to forget about politics, interest rates and all the rest in favor of returning to that simple time is what allows their transcendence: hey, let’s all just be in the same place in the same time for a while. Their enthusiasm and energy are immediate and infectious. The songs make you forget everything in your world but for butterfly knives and well-aimed pees.