Sticky Antlers are No Moreby Righard Kapp / 29.09.2010
The Sticky Antlers are no more. No clash of egos or bitter disillusionment with the lack of audience or personal fallout. It’s just that one of them is studying abroad and the feeling is without them – it’s not the Sticky Antlers anymore. Which sucks. They’ve only played Cape Town once, and I happened to be away. I’ve never seen them live and now I never will.
There’s no-one quite like them around right now. It’s disconcerting how unusual a gang of unabashed alt-rock nerds seems in this climate of relentless social media hype and the guy from New Holland’s risible hair!
They apparently live together in a house where they record on an old Fostex 16 track tape machine, craft handmade merchandise and make primitively animated music videos. This borderline technophobic approach extends to a slight wariness of digital formats. When quizzed about their new album Tupperware Tombstone’s availability as a download, band member Damon replies that they’re “not anti-digital”, but have a marked preference for physical media and it’s ability to represent more than just the music it contains.
They’re admirably wary of contributing to the encroaching information overload which is making ADD hyper-consumers of us all and “severely cheapening one’s experience of new music – diminishing the impact of an album, especially if the album in question is ‘difficult’.” While it may seem like a perverse form of self-sabotage to eschew the distribution method du jour, it’s nice to have a band that actually thinks about these things and their implications, and are prepared to take some kind of stand. Ever since I put this album on, I’ve been afflicted with a gnawing nostalgia for finding albums I’d heard about (on CD, of course, I’m a young ‘un) amidst the all discarded dreck at the secondhand stall in my hometown back in the day, and avidly playing it to death.
The Sticky Antlers have at least left us with their swansong album, Tupperware Tombstone, as a parting gift, an album that showcases just enough development in terms of transmogrifying noise rock into excellent songs for me to be even more dismayed at their demise. Whereas their previous self-titled album mostly verged on Les Georges Leningrad-level hysteria (Blind Horse) and near-industrial abrasion (Sickman of Africa), Tombstone is, to my ears, a much more detailed, hell, even sedate album (taken within context), liberally sprinkled with moments of brilliance and tape-delay trails.
Opener “I’m Being Shadowed” bombards you with the familiar Antlers traits: guitars, drums and vocals all shredded by distortion, followed by “The Outside World”, an uncharacteristically delicate Antlers song, with Le Muerte’s vocals, loping between Suzanne Vega and Kim Gordon on “Kool Thing”. “Restraining Order” is built around a beautifully chiming riff while “Yawning During Incantation” is a brief cathartic purge, similar to KOOS’ “Breed Like Rats”, a nice reminder that these guys used to be a band called If You Are What You Eat I Can Be You By Tomorrow!
This goes straight into “Papertail”, a cartoonish romp that builds with manic momentum.
The closing salvo of “My Favourite Part is the End” and “Arx of Sear” finds the band venturing into abstraction: the former is a shadow of a song sandwiched between noise jams, while the latter is post-rock, when that still meant kids who’d listened to too much Spiderland and felt inspired to create a sense of musical suspense using little more than their modest guitar skills and maybe some opaque field recording. More of this next time please – oh yes, there won’t be a next time.
Also included with a limited edition of the album is the retrospective DVD Like it Never Really Happened, comprised of live footage that drives home how confrontational this band’s noise could be, and music videos that balk at the very idea of production values. Sickman of Africa’s one long shot of a grotesque sock-puppet vomiting into a toy loo probably did not get heavy rotation on MK!
While the end of the Antlers definitely does not imply total silence from the KRNGY camp (offshoot band Make Overs are already gigging around JHB/PTA), I can’t help but feel that this particular incarnation was in the process of creeping ever closer to relative prominence. Perhaps it’s better that they now remain forever confined to this hypothetical space ripe for mythologising by overeager speculators like myself, but damn, one last tour would have been nice!
*Antlers Cape Town image © Jenna Bass.