Stillman releases his new studio EP Eton Mess on Monday. Recorded through with a streak of political and polemical outrage, the four songs on the Eton Mess EP consider the state of England under the cronyism and corruption of megalomaniacal media moguls and pompous, profiteering politicians.
It's a prog rock epic with comparisons being made to Cream and Yes. The latest review this week flagged Stillman creator Chaz Craik as one of the country's finest songwriters. (AMP Mag)
Full of delicate hair-on-the-back-of-your neck harmonies and inter-weaving acoustic lines, it also combines floor-shaking riffage, serpentine basslines, loping funk rhythms and soaring melodies. Put it all together and you’ve a mix of vintage influences brought bang-up-to-date with songwriting and textures that make it both timeless and contemporary.
The sound has shades of many different bands - from the Zeppelinesque riffing and Cream-y soloing of ‘Eton Mess’, the hushed picking of Nick Drake and delicate falsetto of Thom Yorke in ‘Soon Enough’, the Rush-ian bass growls of ‘Grit & Blood’ to the Floydian guitar wails and analogue rumbles of ‘The Rats’ Tale’.
For the musically astute there are titbits from early-Yes all the way through to Bon Iver via The Meters and Gábor Szabó. But listen to the EP, and you’re left with the impression of a band supremely confident in its own sound and direction.
The EP kicks off with ‘Eton Mess’ as our protagonist inflames his Hampstead faithful and makes a Westminster booty-call to his ‘backdoor sugar-daddy red-top ride’. (Yup, it’s about him, and also him.)
‘Soon Enough’ changes musical tone and perspective and we find ourselves at the bedside of a man with his fading wife and crippling medical bills. When the inevitable comes to pass he reflects that in our brave new world ‘a home’s just an asset unrealized when the piper calls’.
Grief turns to righteous anger and ‘Grit & Blood’ takes us onto the streets. It’s a call-to-arms for all the disenfranchised and disillusioned whose day has finally come. But this is no simple agitprop anthem and over spiky chords are spat the words ‘Lies, damn lies and world exclusives, the truth is what the boss-man chooses, we wolf down the gristle and juices... and make our bed.’
Closing the EP is the epic finale ‘The Rats’ Tale’ - a modern-day folktale and Swiftian satire. We watch as the marchers reach Westminster and are hurled ‘into the water jagged with steel’. Then see the Houses of Parliament strafe the surviving commoners before detaching itself and floating down the Thames, only to implode (and explode) over a petty squabble about the main course...
Book-ended by the poignant strains of a tin whistle, it is a tour-de-force of soulful guitar, undulating moog and funky riffing. The EP reaches a climactic finale as [spoiler alert!] ‘Into the raw sucking foam sank a thousand black souls to fiery home, and we breathe free one last time..’
The Eton Mess EP is a marriage of humour and pathos, fragile melodies and biting overdrive, nimble basslines and muscular riffs. Stillman are a band that have something to say and the means to say it and they have produced a lyrically and musically visceral piece of work that is truly a sign of the times.