Will Stoker and the Embers – Will Stoker and the Embers
Any band lauded for their energetic live shows is going to face a challenge in trying to capture that crowd-stoked urgency on disc. This applies doubly for full-length debuts, but for Will Stoker and the Embers it’s been a mere trifle.
From the hyperkinetic opening salvo of Tickets Please, through to its manic gallop-and-glide stablemate In The Belly Of The Beast, this is an assured first burst from the barrier for Perth’s former
National Campus Bands comp winners.
Mostly sticking close to classic rock tones, Stoker and the Embers have created an album which presents a whole that is fresher, tighter and more potent than the sum of its well-worn parts.
It’s a vision fully-formed from the get-go; Tickets Please sets the tone as a brutal five-minute surf-scream that seems to whiz by in half the time. Stoker gives his four-piece band of musical jocks a long leash to run with, before reining them in and establishing himself as the lyrical brains trust in The King, blending rapid-fire spat anarchy with singalong (and pausing long enough to let guitarist Gareth Bevan lay down some of the finest noise-guitar soloing heard in recent memory).
The disc’s mid-section provides the major highlights. Nestled together but living at opposite ends of the spectrum are How Can I (piano-poetry of Nick Cave calibre) and Ten Thousand Horses (a serpentine and heavily-borrowed hip-swinger).
It’s not all good news; you’ll find some weaker tracks here, the main culprit being a cover of Bjork’s Come To Me which falls foul of a shitty drum sound and plodding pace. Keys and echo-laden guitar try hard to generate some atmosphere but never manage to gel enough to compensate.
That said, when your weak point is a cover, you’re doing alright. The follow-up Dundee does a much better job of mining similarly subdued territory.
Overall, Stoker is intense and inspired without being a loose cannon. He’s irreverent but rarely frivolous. He’s smart but well shy of being a smart-arse, which is a battle many front men don’t win (especially the type who put themselves in the band’s name).
His warmly overdriven tone lets slip the occasional yelp or John Lydon bleat and is somehow never worse off for it. The lyrics are sharp and his bandmates are a more than a match for them.
Curiously, if you come across this band’s promo material, you’ll see there’s never a single mention of genre. That’s evidence of taste and intelligence right there; the tracks back it up and do all the talking.