Sticks and Stones - The Strife and Times (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Sticks and Stones

The Strife and Times (2003)


To be frank, if you're at all a fan of modern day East Coast punk rock then you need Sticks & Stones' The Strife and Times. This band has been criminally underappreciated today, something that Chunksaah hopes to remedy with this two-disc compilation.

The Strife and Times is made up of 41 tracks of re-mastered songs from the New Jersey band's 1987 to 1995 recordings. The material ranges from early demos, cassette and 7" material to previously unreleased live cuts and songs from their early 90s full-lengths. The first disc contains some of the rarer material, including three songs from the Inner Revolt cassette and tunes from the World To Be Saved, Song To Be Sung, Coupe Flowers Can't Fail and Storm Coming 7" records. Along with that there's a couple of demos, a pair of unreleased live songs and a track from Skene Records' Can You Break Through? compilation LP. This material sounds as good as one would expect with the remastering. Of course it's evident that it was recorded on a budget, but the rawness fits the music. The most recognisable track for those of us who missed-out on the band when they were around is "Less Than Free," which the Bouncing Souls revived for their BYO Split Series release. Sticks & Stones also put their spin on songs by Bruce Springsteen, P.E.D. and the Dead Kennedys.

The second disc features the band's more easily available material, culled from 1993's Theme Song For Nothing CD / LP and the `94s The Optimist Club LP. While early on the band relied on a played a promising mix Replacements, Clash and 80s hardcore influences, their later material is strikingly original and well written. The band grew darker lyrically as time went on and incorporated more introspective and folky elements into their sound. "Theme Song For Nothing," "Laugh To Scream" and "Thanks For The Cash" are obvious standouts, but there's nary a weak track here. Particularly interesting is a driving cover of The Police's "Synchronicity II," one of 9 tracks from the LP-only Optimist Club release, the band's final full length and a wellspring of creativity. Both discs end with the song "Home," a rather touching acoustic tune. A rough 1990 demo caps Disc 1 while the full 1994 studio version concludes Disc 2.

Echos of this band can be heard all over modern day East Coast punk rock, most obviously in the Bouncing Souls. The history of both bands is entwined and former Sticks & Stones members Johnny X and Rob Santello have become regular characters in the ongoing story of the Souls. Singer / guitarist Peter Vantantonio is currently fronting the World / Inferno Friendship Society under the name Jack Terricloth.

We namedrop Lifetime and Jawbreaker quite a bit when describing the roots and sounds of today's punk. Sticks & Stones deserves far better than to be just a footnote on that list. This release is essential.