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Stabbing Westward

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★★★½☆
(140 Reviews)

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  • For most bands, the self-titled album is a debut. Although Stabbing Westward is the group’s fourth, it is also the debut of their new sound. With the departure of guitarist Marcus Eliopulos, a whole new dynamic has set in with the quartet that remains. The former industrial sound is almost gone; save for three of the ten tracks, all that remains of it is a faint flavoring in the background of what could be some of Live’s heavier work. The new Stabbing Westward is dominated not by the fast, crunching guitars and pounding beats of old, but by clean acoustic or light electric guitars, light beats, and synthesizer sounds which no longer veer toward the electronic buzz of anger which has since dissipated. The rage of betrayal and unrequited love has worn itself down to melancholy loneliness. But this is certainly not the end of a good thing. The band may play differently now, but the lyrics are the same classic depression that all Stabbing fans know and love. Well, okay, maybe not completely. The song “Angel” is actually a drastic move – it’s a happy love song. It has the aforementioned dark guitar jangling characteristic of Live or the Cure, but a chorus of “I’ve never been loved by an angel/ Until tonight, when your heaven filled my world.” And the best part is, it works. Stabbing Westward have made a full turn on this song, and done a better job at it than some bands who do this sort of thing as their main shtick (see Lifehouse or any boy band for further clarification). Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work here. “I Remember,” for example, starts with a nice acoustic guitar rhythm and somber background sounds, but loses some credibility with the almost whining bridge of “your kiss-ES, sweet kiss-ES.” “The Only Thing,” another alternative-sounding tune with that shadowy industrial tint, starts reaching into cliche territory with the chorus “You are everything I need/ You are the air I breathe.” For a band not normally known to dip into such banality, this comes as a bit of a surprise; by the same token, though, this first mistake can still be deemed excusable. The overall diagnosis: Stabbing Westward’s new album is a move in a completely different direction, but it’s still a good direction. Running the musical spectrum from fast acoustic melodies (“Perfect”) to time-honored industrial guitar angst (“High”), and the lyrical spectrum from self-loathing and regret (“Wasted”) to renewed and eager faith in the institution of romance (“Angel,” “High” again), this disc could do to Stabbing what Sgt. Pepper’s… did to the Beatles. A decade spent developing the raw sound of disappointment, beating it to perfection, and then a sudden change of course as soon as the end is in sight. Life is full of interesting surprises.

    Posted on November 23, 2009