A lot has transpired in the music industry over this past year, but none so blatantly apparent than the recognition jump of Stick Figure‘s music. Ascending from opening slots a few short years ago to headlining major festivals around the world, Stick Figure has officially pierced mainstream popularity — a spot well-earned. Early adopters of the band knew this day would come; none anticipated it would be to this degree. Reggae rock bands have come and gone over the years, the uppermost remaining legends forever in the niche market. Yet, to society at large, addicted to Top 40 radio play, even the most recognized reggae rock bands still fly under the public radar. This is somehow not the case for Stick Figure music, becoming increasingly known by all. What is frontman Scott Woodruff’s secret to success? Well, besides enlisting the best players by his side for live performances, he also bares it all on the line.
After gaining momentum with both Set In Stone and Burial Ground albums, Stick Figure has taken a three-year hiatus from releasing full records, rendering singles along the way to tease fans towards a full-length in a nondescript distance. Well, the wait is finally over, folks. Running nearly 70 minutes and spanning 15 tracks, Stick Figure drops their World on Fire album as of today, 100% self-funded and produced by Woodruff. Almost a concept album, World on Fire centers around recurring themes — mainly the earth rotating on its axis — and welcomes fans into the wild world inside Woodruff’s head. It’s not all unicorns and roses up there. Please keep your legs and arms inside the moving vehicle at all times, for this bumpy ride of self-discovery and purpose starts with what could be construed as a five-minute tribute to the Talking Heads.
Almost a concept album, World on Fire centers around recurring themes — mainly the earth rotating on its axis — and welcomes fans into the wild world inside Woodruff’s head.
“Once in a Lifetime” was the audible transformation to fame and fortune for Talking Heads members back in 1980. “How did I get here?”… “This is not my beautiful wife!” Fast forward 39 years and Stick Figure has put a modern twist on the same ‘ol surreality. A ticking clock in the early moments of the album insinuates urgency, apprehension. Opportunity is calling, but it’s a limited time offer. Who better to pick up the proverbial phone than Stick Figure, with their cool demeanor, deep bass and upbeat attitude? Woodruff declares once and for all that he’s “done running away” from his destiny, no matter the risk. Fight or flight, indeed. Muffled vocals on the chorus amplifies this motif, with soft words of encouragement as if emanating from Woodruff’s subconscious. The band simply can’t stop now.
The title track comes second, a single released back in June 2018 and catapulting quickly to one of Stick’s greatest hits. “World on Fire” dismisses greed, materialism, establishment and ego, saying “if I had all the money in the world, I’ll surely burn it all”. Destruction breeds creation and this planet is in dire need of a carte blanche. Stick Figure’s incorporation of Slightly Stoopid on the track is an obvious accolade to the predecessors of peace and love who came before them. As the world spins, the message remains the same. And, speaking of the world spinning round, Stick Figure counts their blessings day by day, elaborating their gratitude in “Angels Above Me”. Not only do they feel blessed, but Stick Figure stays forever dedicated to their craft through the love of those lost. “[I’m] playing my guitar underneath the stars for you,” Woodruff admits sorrowful, yet sweetly.
Along the same lines, tracks like “Shine”, “Easy Runaway” and “The Great Unknown” proffer similar self-motivational aspects. Stick Figure is turning into a household name and that, according to this album’s lyrics, seems to terrify its members. In order to “shine on like the sun”, the band (just like the sun) has to commit to never having a day off. All eyes on you from here on out, my friends. But, how could they have foreseen both the good and the bad of stardom? These oxymoronic instances make the track “Above the Storm” so powerful. The band is rising above adversity, blazing their own trail, knowing full well that anomalies of the world can crop up at any time to knock them down. The time has come to rise “above the storm”, for if you anticipate rain to fall without a cloud in the sky, you’ll never be surprised. This 2017 banger is positioned on the LP right before “Whiskey Sun”, a new track featuring the talents of Stick longtime friend TJ O’Neill. With playful keyboard chord progressions, “Whiskey Sun” is a song for cowboys — any lone ranger types out there. “Accept me for who I am // Whatever I’ve done,” Woodruff asks of his listeners. Nobody is perfect and the band is still figuring everything out as they go. Stick figuring it out (yes, we went there). A dark tonality crashes down at the chorus, like a tidal wave of self doubt flooding a previously tranquil valley. What can we do to stay sane in such a demanding world? Stick Figure says, “smokin’ makes the sun come up, whiskey makes the sun go down.” At least self-medication makes “a lot of standing around” in between much more bearable.
What’s next for Stick Figure? Hard to say. World domination, most likely.
At this point, you’re probably thinking that Stick has just released a giant pity party album, but that’s not the case! Like any group arriving at the top, life is also insanely easier than it used to be. Songs like “Life is a Party” and “Summertime” celebrate the finer things in life. The latter track has alt heavyweight Citizen Cope on it, too, released right before the onset of summer back in June. Another banger for the books. The balance of letting the good times roll amidst underlying anxieties of failure is what makes Stick Figure so relatable. Probably the best example of this paradox is in “Welcome to the Sun”. Fear of flying too close to the sun has forced Stick Figure to just land on it. Might as well colonize while they’re there. Success isn’t random; it’s strategic. You have to plant seeds if you want anything to grow. Stick Figure is well aware of their new stature, achieving it after years of sacrifice. Now the band is saying forget the past, “yesterday was yesterday”. Welcome to a new dawn, a new era of sound. As the album begins, so must it end — there’s no going back now. “Burn the Night” closes out the album full-circle, with yet another sun analogy. Whether Stick uses the night to work or to revel, the band will undoubtedly rise and grind in the morning without skipping a beat.
What’s next for Stick Figure? Hard to say. World domination, most likely. In the meantime, World on Fire is now available on all digital outlets. For more information or to snag your copy now, visit the links below.
Purchase or stream World on Fire album:
- Once in a Lifetime
- World on Fire, feat. Slightly Stoopid
- Angels Above Me
- All for You
- Above the Storm
- Whiskey Sun, feat. TJ O’Neill
- Summertime, feat. Citizen Cope
- Easy Runaway
- The Great Unknown
- Rise and Fall
- Life is a Party
- Cocoa de Rock
- Welcome to the Sun
- Burn the Night
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.