Album Review: The Bar Stool Preachers - Above The Static
Reviewed by Dan Barnes
Fast closing in on a decade together, Above the Static is The Bar Stool Preachers’ third full-length and comes a full five years after 2018’s Grazie Governo; not that the Brighton-based outfit have been dragging their feet during that time, as they’ve been – conditions permitting, of course – honing themselves into battle-hardened road-dogs ready to take on the world. And this new record is another arrow in an already formidable quiver.
The first thing you notice about Above the Static is how light on the Ska elements it is when compared to Garzie and the debut, Blatant Propaganda. There’s really only Don’t Die Today, with its World Music introduction, that carries the Ska torch forward. There are the occasional flourishes elsewhere, but if you’ve come to skank then this is your only real opportunity.
Instead, The Preachers have crafted an album of twelve very different sounding songs that, in an ideal world, where fair is fair and talent trumps all, the band would have a massive hit on their hands.
Opening with Call Me on the Way Home’s cheery, upbeat drive, going into Flatlined – the demo of which was recorded at the Waterloo Bar in Blackpool – and on to All Turned Blue, the album’s first single, might have you thinking The Bar Stool Preachers had become a Pop Punk band. All three are slickly polished slices of Platinum selling fodder, not normally the first though when considering this band. But All Turned Blue has the kernel of those Ska roots.
Second single, Doorstep, arrives with a crunchy and unpolished sound; big and punchy, with a hook-laden chorus, this is bound to have fists pumping during the live shows. Laptop maintains the edgy Punk vibes through its in-yer-face urgency and Punk n’ Roll aesthetic.
There’s no part of Above the Static where the quality dips. Having honed their collective crafts through years of touring, original bassist, Karl Jeffrey and drummer, Alex Whibley lay a foundation for the guitars and keyboards to shine.
Founder member and vocalist, Tom McFaull – son of Cock Sparrer frontman, Colin – delivers a career defining performance across the whole of the record, but none more so than on the piano driven, mournful Lighthouse Keeper or the closing Going Forward, with its Frank Turner vibes and cello accompaniment.
I’ve been noticing a welcome trend in the Punk records of late and that is the return of political comment. Let’s be honest, with the state of the world over the past few years it should be like shooting fish in a barrel and I like my Punk to be engaged with that.
Above the Static addresses the divisive nature of the world in Never Going to Happen, using an alternative approach to launch an acerbic attack, adopting the stylistics of Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes or perhaps even the Sleaford Mods. This aesthetic is continued through Prince of Nothing’s hints of Ska and Two Dog Night’s crunching guitars.
If there was any justice in this world – and I think we can all agree there isn’t – then Love the Love would be the global mega hit to elevate the band to international status. From the 50s pop opening to the unstoppable beats, this should be rocketing up the charts with all the vigour and acceleration of current interest rates.
Back in Issue 99 of Vive Le Rock magazine, The Bar Stool Preachers were one of the artists considered to be ready to go big in 2023. It’s as if they had a crystal ball because if Above the Static isn’t the collection to move them up, I don’t know what would be.