One of the more important moments in rock and roll history took place in August of 1965 when the Beatles played Shea Stadium and met Bob Dylan at their hotel. Now, forty years later, Bob Dylan has met the Beatles in an altogether different way. The two rock powerhouses of the sixties have somehow been reborn within Liverpudlian Howie Payne. Sure, every band and their brothers have been inspired by Bob and the Fab Four, but few can live up to the songwriting mastery. Far be it from me to try and compare any new band with the masters, but one new band comes mighty close, that being Howie Payne’s The Stands.
One of the few complaints that I can muster about the Stands debut record, All Years Leaving is the band’s name. We have the Streets, the Stills, the Thrills, the Kills, the Killers, the Hives, the Bees, the Strokes, and god knows who else will come next. It’s a good thing that the Stands music is so good, otherwise it might easily get lost in the shuffle. Heck, I’m gonna form a band called the Stunts, then a punk outfit could call themselves the Runts, then there’ll be the C…oh, I couldn’t get away with that! But honestly, the name the Stands makes the name Snow Patrol seem like genius.
What the Stands do bring to the table are the catchiest pop / classic rock songs in a while. By combining elements from Dylan, the Beatles, the La’s, early Stones, Neil Young, and the Byrds, the Stands have, while honoring their past, almost created something new. Sure, Payne’s voice sounds like a mix between Dylan, John Lennon, and even early Jagger at times, but what’s amazing is how authentically it all comes together. This becomes most evident by the time the third track, “Outside Your Door” rolls around. Sounding like George Harrison and John Lennon sitting in with Johnny Cash’s backing band, the song steams along like a freight train through the desolate and stretching countryside. “When This River Rolls Over You” is the most Dylan-esque song of the bunch, almost a lost song from Bringing It All Back Home.
“It’s Only Everything” could border on being repetitive if you didn’t find yourself wanting to sing along with it every time it’s on. The sweet chorus, easy drumbeats, plucked guitar, and sleepy harmonica all add to the patchwork that becomes a classic song. “Always is the Same- Shine On,” particularly the “Shine On” part of the song, is the most Neil Young-ish track on the album and Payne’s voice adjusts accordingly to fit the style of the song. At times you would swear that a younger version of Neil was guesting on the album. I’m sure there’s some quote I could insert here about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, but I’ll just say that the Stands aren’t so much imitating as they are profoundly impacted by a particular era, and we are the luckier for it. The Stands are to the sixties folk rock as Franz Ferdinand is to eighties post-punk.
“Here She Comes Again” hearkens back to Lee Mavers and his band from Liverpool the La’s in more ways than one. The title recalls the La’s “There She Goes Again,” plus the early Beatlesesque jangly guitars make it a perfect homage. Further songs like “The Love You Give” stand out especially the harmonized vocals within. But the best song on the album is easily “I Need You” which is also the most original song on the album. Sure, if we stretched it we could find comparisons to Payne’s true inspirations, Robbie Robertson and the Band, but let’s just revel in the pop perfection of the track rather than search for parallels. I wouldn’t be surprised if “I Need You” became the breakout hit it really deserves to be.
After catching one of the Stands’ gigs at Liverpool’s Bandwagon Club, Noel Gallagher was blown away. He ended up offering the band the use of his studio to record their first album, further adding that he ultimately didn’t care where they recorded as long as he was able to be present. A band can’t get much luckier than that, and luck is what brought them to Gallagher’s ears and the `getting more popular by the second’ Echo label’s doorstep, but it is Howie Payne’s gift that will keep them there. Now if they could just do something about that name…
The Band- Music from the Big Pink
Neil Young- On the Beach
Bob Dylan- Bringing It All Back Home