“We all lost a year to the doldrums,” laments Frank Carter late into his band’s fourth album. It’s a line that feels disturbingly relatable and uncomfortably real, but Frank is not reminding us of the ubiquitous loss practically everyone on earth has encountered in recent times to be depressing. Instead, he’s revealing the fuel to his fire. Lockdown has made him into a coiled spring, overflowing with pent-up energy, and it’s all released into listeners’ ears in a beautiful burst of scuzzy punk.
‘Sticky’ captures life in all its wonderful messiness, its ugliness and glory, and does so with an infectious sense of fun. Even when he’s at his angriest, launching tirades against government failures on ‘Rat Race’ and the patriarchy on ‘Off With His Head’ (harmonising with guest Cassyette’s hair-raising high notes), he relishes in the release and never lets the mood dip. Ultimately, however, the only serious business he is undertaking here is the business of celebrating life. ‘Cupid’s Arrow’ and ‘Cobra Queen’ rejoice in the dangerous thrill of falling in love, the latter with a sense of drama reminiscent of fan favourite ‘Kitty Sucker’. The subject matter isn’t always deep and serious, mind, and that’s no complaint. In fact, there’s a real quirkiness that he’s never really displayed on ‘Go Get A Tattoo’ and the hedonistic rock ‘n’ roll number ‘Bang Bang’, which somehow gets away with almost switching genres in its middle eight in time for a slick-as-anything verse from Lynks full of witty one-liners – “Partial gasterectomy / Absolutely quality, what a G!” It’s a pleasantly surprising evolution, and one perfectly suited to the current moment, where the order of the day is cramming as much fun as possible into life to make up for everything we were denied.
It’s a sentiment that is amplified by ‘Sticky’’s sonic template, where the guitars bite and bounce concurrently, tuned to the extent where they almost buzz in an electronic fashion. It makes this perhaps the most accessible record Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes have put their name to, but this doesn’t go to say that ‘Sticky’ ever panders to its audience - it is an incidental but rightfully rewarding bonus for a band who remain as distinct as they’ve ever been on a record full of wins.
The phrase ‘an album for our times’ is often only bandied about in relation to releases that are topical yet serious. But, even though this is a record that’d rather start parties than discourse, it more than applies. ‘Sticky’ is music for living life in full colour, and until you listen, you won’t know how much you needed it.
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