Photo by Daniel Alexander Harris
Even from Sticky’s album art, it’s easy to tell that punk-rock band Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes’ latest album marks a sharp departure from their previous releases—though, looking back at 2015’s Blossom, 2017’s Modern Ruin, and 2019’s End of Suffering, it seems this sudden explosion of colour and sound has really been a long time coming.
It seems like End of Suffering wasn’t really the end of suffering for Carter—as suggested by Sticky’s punchy, heavy, and at times overwhelming style which punctuates more than just the album’s artwork. Produced by Dean Richardson, the band’s guitarist, Sticky is an incredibly charged release. From being sexual at the start with songs like ‘Sticky,’ violent towards the middle with the song ‘My Town,’ and emotional by the end with the song ‘Original Sin,’ the album overflows in every way.
The tracks ‘Sticky,’ ‘My Town,’ ‘Go Get A Tattoo,’ and ‘Off With His Head’ were all released as singles ahead of time, but it’s ‘Sticky’ which kicks the full release off to a rolling start. Carter sings here about feeling ‘Oh so sticky / After midnight in the city,’ setting a cloying, oppressive tone that the rest of the album will follow. This owes itself in part to Richardson’s unrelenting guitar riffs that crop up back-to-back for the next few songs, leaving precious little breathing space between them, echoing the city Carter finds himself in.
‘Love, it ain’t what it seems,’ Carter cries out on the next track, ‘Cupid’s Arrow,’ where he himself talks about finding it ‘harder to breathe’. The motif that things are not as they seem is threaded—or rather skewered—throughout the album; each song is weighed down by disillusionment. Though the age-old saying of ‘sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll’ runs through Sticky, the album has an added shock of self-awareness with lyrics like: ‘My town, it looks like yours / Needles scattered on the floor / Body parts in bags, in wheelie bins,’ as sung by guest singer Joe Talbot on ‘My Town.’ The sixth track on the album and arguably Sticky’s peak, ‘Go Get A Tattoo,’ is an infectious ode to youthful hedonism and impulsiveness. The lyric ‘It's 2 AM, f*ck it / I'm getting a tattoo,’ marks guest artist Lynks’ alt-pop-infused entrance into the song, which Carter later follows with: ‘And I never want a lockdown again.’
It’s clear that this release was not just coincidentally post-lockdown, but a product of it; a long-awaited outburst after having been faced with isolation and a rising discontentment with the social issues the pandemic brought to the fore. It’s fitting, then, that the next track, ‘Off With His Head,’ featuring Essex-born singer Cassyette, is a ruthless invective against the patriarchy. On the track, Carter and Cassyette’s vocals harmonise perfectly to create a tune that is both brutal and catchy, as could be said for much of the rest of the album.
‘Rat Race’ is another pandemic punk track, even more direct in its meaning and cutting in its words, which comes directly after the stand-out track, ‘Cobra Queen.’ Like the earlier ‘Cupid’s Arrow,’ ‘Cobra Queen’ is about love in all its beautiful and terrifying forms—the song is far from the ride-or-die requited romance of the band’s past hits like ‘Kitty Sucker,’ but it’s just as irresistible, with crooning vocals from Carter that are as alluring as the Cobra Queen he sings about.
‘Original Sin’ featuring Scottish rock singer Bobby Gillespie rounds off the album, with choral backing vocals and a saxophone line that almost takes centre stage over Gillespie’s low, breathy voice. Between the angelic chorus and Carter’s lamentations about the ‘devil / In the back of [his] mind,’ the track brings Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes’ album to the perfect close.
Edited by Josh Aberman, Music Editor