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Published: 2002/03/20
by Chip Schramm

Fritters – Stankf

Snazzy Pants 80232 100012
Being a power-trio is a stylish thing these days. But
being able to mix style and substance in proportionate
doses is a very tricky thing to manage, especially
when trying to make the ultimate funk-pop-folk-punk
fusion album in the studio. On Stankf;s recent
release, Fritters, they combine an almost
overwhelming array of grating vocals, studio effects,
and dizzying saxophone riffs to literally pound an
unsuspecting listener into submission. Not that any
of those three elements is a bad thing in and of
itself, but Kristoffer Carter (vocals and bass), Andy
Stephan (sax), and Jason Woods (drums) don’t always
seem like they’re playing with a common goal in mind.
This album showcases a band that seems to have a lot
to prove, but their lofty ambitions don’t quite mesh
with their strengths, either vocally, instrumentally,
or in production.
The strongest force on the album is the singing and
songwriting or Kristoffer Carter. He sings
passionately poetic verses in a dark, panting tone
that is similar to lots of grunge singers from the
early 90s. With that in mind, the very first thing
that throws the album off is the bass levels, which
are far too high on both drums and bass guitar. It’s
hard to understand what he’s singing during points of
several songs, which is not really that bad, because
many of his lyrics get repeated over and over again,
to the point where they lose most of their original
emphasis. In "Flight of the Beaver", Carter
repeats the phrase "When shecomplicated, I’m not"
and "I never said I won’t lie" so many times, the
words lose their meaning and all you can feel is his
own personal angst.
The saxophone play throughout the album is really
quite puzzling. Andy Stephan does a commendable job
of playing some nice lines at various points, but it seems like he got lost
on the way to the
studio. No matter how well he plays, bright and
flowing horn passages are just like a few sprinkles of
salt on the corn tamale that is Stankf;s music. And
it’s also worthy to note that, in several places, the
horn solos seem like they need to be better placed, as
they kind of wander aimlessly throughout the songs,
not showing much regard for either the raspy lyrics or
other instruments being played. It’s not for lack of
attention to production: they took the time to
include long instrumental lead-ins for several songs,
but they just don’t add much to the overall quality of
the music.
Beyond a doubt, the strongest point of the album is the
instrumental "Wicked Feelah (Island Song)".
Without the punk poetry sagging things down, the band
offers a much more palatable sound. And that’s really
too bad, because there’s lots of potential within each
of the members of Stankft they just don’t seem
to have the right chemistry and balance on this album. Without taking chances by combining wildly disparate
sounds, they would have not had such a great potential
for success. But by combining so many elements that
do not fit well together, ultimately, they landed
about as far from an enjoyable album as you can come.

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