The Critics Corner | Albums

Stormchasers Chicago area alt-rockers return with a moodier, darker, autobiographical outlook on solid comeback album
Alan HopAlbum name: Stormchasers
Label:  Mutant League Records
Release Date: April 14, 2017
Rating: -- 4.0 out of 5

Review written by: Alan Ho
In 1997, remnants of two different bands from Chicago's Western Suburbs came together with one recruitment for a bass player.  They crafted a song that would become a cult hit within the confines of Chicago and then catch the eyes of Elektra Records called "Dumb Pop Song" in the early 2000s.  A monster second effort from this group for the label catapulted them to the mainstream, then came the hiatus and the formation of a group called AM Taxi with 3/4 of this group.  A reunion ensued in 2009 with a new, independent release that seemingly was made for the fans with no prior advance notice to anyone from the outside.

Now we're in 2017, which marks a milestone for Chicago suburbs-bred Lucky Boys Confusion of twenty years in existence and playing together (founding member Joe Sell passed away to unknown causes in 2012). It's a big milestone, a testament to the endurance of any band through the ups and downs of making and performing music together. With that time together, crafting, honing, evolving and harnessing what makes Lucky Boys Confusion tick, one wonders how they will celebrate two decades together.

The result is new album Stormchasers, a sort of concept, sort of autobiographical sketch of their entire careers, from their ska-punk origins to the pop-punk that ultimately catapulted them to the mainstream.  The first four tracks certainly smack of an autobiographical nature as clearly evidenced by the opening track, "I Slept with the Devil," which may serve as an allegory to their brief flirtation with the mainstream as they were on Elektra Records from 2000-2004.  While their second effort, 2003's Commitment was a rousing success, the label still dropped them in 2004 amidst acrimony, leading the group to mock them as "Neglektra." Next track and first single from the album, "It's After Midnight" offers the rousing pop-punk sounds that propelled the group to the mainstream but like the opening track "I Slept with the Devil," offers very dark lyrics, a general departure from their previous fare.  The metaphor of a failed relationship with the subject exhorting their significant other to stop looks to be a deeply personal look into frontman Kaustubh “Stubhy” Pandav and his failed first marriage, one of the many events that transpired during the group's unexpected hiatus that began in 2009. 

"Sun In My Eyes" is decidedly less dark and moody from the previous three but remains very personal and once again a cathartic experience.  Pandav describes in album commentary that "Sun In My Eyes" "lyrically, is one of the last chapters of the story."  It tells in this chapter of being able to look back at the hardships, trials and tribulations, digging a hole and becoming better for the experiences.  This concept is of particular personal importance to Pandav, having gone through all that himself.

"Name In Lights" creates a new story, one that continues for the rest of the album.  Like the opening four tracks and the personal, the base motif is experience, but now more drawing from their twenty years in the music world.  "Name In Lights" sounds like an allegory to their brief flirtation with the mainstream and how the group really felt as they traversed the mainstream from an existential perspective, something many other groups miust have felt as they scored their first mainstream hit.  The story continues throughout the rest of the album, with the signature Lucky Boys sound but with a bigger bite, a brooding moodiness and a sense of world-weariness.  Tracks like "Burn a Little Brighter" and "Your Friends Are Whispering" are the big highlights for the rest of the story the group crafts, chock-full of metaphors and very catchy refrains, a key feature that defines the group.  "Good Luck" is the interesting track in this story as the somewhat dour and moody lyrics are juxtaposed with incredibly electric, catchy and decidedly upbeat instrumentals clocked at under 3 minutes of track time.  This might be a quick clinic for other groups that have followed them in how to pull this rare double play.

is described by the group as a "concept album." It is very much so at its raw core, but the album itself lyrically serves as an almost cathartic experience for fans who have been with them from their very beginnings twenty years ago, albeit not sonically since the punk-ska they were known for early on is non-existent. Stormchasers is also, especially the beginning four tracks, a cathartic experience for the group as well.  In a way, they haven't changed too much but at the same time, they did change a lot.  The sounds are vintage LBC, from the beginnings of a music revolution that would spawn the likes of All Time Low, Go Radio, The Maine and Simple Plan with highly melodic instrumentals and extremely catchy refrains.  But the changes in the group's personal and professional lives during the nearly ten year hiatus is evident in the moodier, darker lyrics throughout the album.  Stormchasers looks to be the beginning of a comeback in 2017 and they may have announced to everyone in the arena that they are back and better and perhaps ready to take everyone back to class.
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