(Half A Cow)
Sticky is the debut album by the Trouble Dolls, the only band in Brooklyn, New York, whose record collection includes more Fleetwood Mac albums than Gang of Four albums. On Sticky, the Dolls dip their tusks into a gooey mix of styles including bubblegum ('7:05'), folk-rock ('Marcelle') and garage rock (the title track). They break out the backward guitars on the psychedelic ballad 'Something Blue Amazed Me' and the sleigh bells on the holiday tune 'December'. Ten of the album's eleven tracks spotlight the sublime vocal talents of Cheri Leone.
The Dolls' 2002 EP I Don't Know Anything At All, released in the U.S. on their own La La La unlimited label, drew comparisons to Apples in Stereo, the Swimming Pool Q's, R.E.M. and Mazzy Star. They would prefer, however, to be compared to either Kylie Minogue or Susie Beauchamp.
The Trouble Dolls: Sticky (Half A Cow):
In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell explains that one of the keys to making an idea palatable to the public at large is 'stickiness' - something about the idea (whether it be a product, TV show, notion of behavior, et. al) that immediately resonates, making the public conducive to hearing the message repeatedly, and then adopting it. Whether this is the inspiration for the title of the first full Trouble Dolls album title, I don't know. I do know that Sticky has the stickiness Gladwell writes of in spades. This album has the versatility of a prime Blondie album. Singer Cheri Leone shines on every track, which covers everything from new wave era pop (in the vein of cool bands like Bonnie Hayes and the Wild Combo) to oddball blends of sweetness and pure evil; for example, 'Your Love Is the Sunshine' is ultrasweet in its verses, but the choruses play like a grunge exorcism, Leone growling and screaming out the title phrase. Clever and cool. She also shines on 'I Don't Know Anything at All', a sterling folk-pop number that echoes past triumphs of Marti Jones and The Swimming Pool Qs. Another delight is the fizzy pop track 'Japanese Gum', which compacts some buzzy and wobbly guitars into the verses and gets cutesy (in a good way) in the chorus. The band wisely brings back '7:05', a top track on their last EP, as it is a rousing opener. In fact, this album more than delivers on the promise of the EP. - Fufkin.com
As much as music fans tend to slave over song lyrics and study them like they were the Bible, sometimes the best songs are the ones that make you sing along even though you have no earthly idea what they're about. The Trouble Dolls' debut full-length Sticky opens with one of those, a 2-1/2 minute power-pop song with old-fashioned handclaps called "7:05." What's going on at 7:05? You got meÖ hey, would you play that song again? The Trouble Dolls are a rock trio from New York City who love big hooks and riffs and snappy melodies. There's something a bit dramatic about the energy behind their songs (think Redd Kross dramatic, not Sondheim dramatic), like they live to put on a really big show, a rock show you'll remember. But Sticky has plenty of quieter moments, too, and as the album continues you're just as likely to appreciate them for writing well-put-together pop ballads that aim at your heart ("I Don't Know Anything At All," "Something Blue Amazed Me") as you are admire them for their spunk. By the album's end, you realize The Trouble Dolls are less interested in crafting one particular aesthetic than in writing songs you'll remember. And though every song here doesn't blow me away, Sticky has enough to keep me singing happily to myself for a while, which sometimes is all you need. - Erasing Clouds website
Sticky is the debut album by New York band THE TROUBLE DOLLS, 3 guys, 2 gals. They sound like a cross between THE B52'S and BLONDIE, great songs and a really exciting sound! - warmfuzz.com
this is a long one from Popmatters:
Their website boldly proclaims their only musical commandment: "They shalt not write a song longer than three minutes". In Sticky, their debut CD, Brooklyn's own the Trouble Dolls stay true to their dicta, serving up 11 fun pop songs in just a blink over 28 minutes. But it's all about quality, not time consumption, right?
The Trouble Dolls began when three friends decided to start a band. None of the three were musicians then: Matty was reviewing records, Cheri was designing graphics for a television news network, and Michael was pitching television scripts to agents.
At first, Cheri played drums and Matty and Michael played acoustic guitar. A fourth friend, Andy, played "pretend bass" on the low strings of his guitar. Songs were written and later performed at New York's Sidewalk Café. It was a humble start.
Ultimately, Andy moved on, and when Michael sold a TV script, he too departed the scene. Matty Karas and Cheri Leone soon transformed the Trouble Dolls into a proper band. Singer Cheri made the move from behind the kit to out front, with her Casios and a Moog, and Gabe Rhodes was enlisted as a drummer. More songs were written, rehearsed, and eventually recorded, with friend Evan Silverman (from the Rosenbergs) lending support on bass.
As the album was nearing completion, Pam Weis joined the group as its official bass player (she appears on the album doing harmonies only). Since the album was recorded, yet more changes have taken place. Gabe is now playing guitar alongside Matty, and someone named Chris has become the new drummer. Confused? It's all rather simple -- but let's talk about the music.
Matty and Cheri have written and produced a fine collection of songs. The CD opens with the very infectious and upbeat "7:05", a song about awakening that manages a subtle reference to Big Star. Gabe's drums and Evan's bass lines pave the way for this catchy little ditty, which includes requisite handclaps.
A tribute to the Trouble Dolls' bubblegum roots, as well as the Japanese fascination with this music, "Japanese Gum" sports a chorus that is as catchy as it is semi-annoying. Another lighter "bubblegum" song is "Your Love Is the Sunshine", all bubbly optimism except for the contrasting screeching vocals in the surprising counter-chorus.
It's not all bubblegum here. There's a darker side to the lightness. Witness the starkness of the song "Invitation", urging all caution be thrown to the wind with such demands as "Fuck me with no protection / Kiss me with morning breath".
The title song, "Sticky", finds the band in post-punk mode, having a great time with an energetic, guitar-driven track that begs to be danced along with. "Marcelle" is about putting an end to an ill-fated relationship with a club- hopping, egocentric celebrity-seeker: "I don't know what the rules are in this strange little world / Where every little thing revolves around you / Marcelle, the pleasure's all yours and the pain is mine / Marcelle, I don't want to waste your time".
Cheri Leone's fine vocals are a standout, and they make "I Don't Know Anything At All" a great success. You get the sense of her confusion, waiting and watching late night news and ultimately giving up trying.
My personal favorite here is the sweet ballad "Something Blue Amazed Me". Here, Leone's voice displays more range, sounding a bit like Sam Phillips at times, drawing you in with the song's visceral poetic imagery ("like corn on fire", "like dawn on my clothes").
Another upbeat treat is "I Finally Figured Out" (Karas gets some vocals in here, but again it is Leone who steals the show), another infectious tune with lyrics that don't really tell us what is figured out, but rather all of the things we know it's not. I guess the point is to keep us guessing.
"Meeting on the Side" is a bit of a departure, a more complexly structured composition that veers a way from the traditional verse/chorus pop norm. Leone's vocals make it work, though, as you follow her lead.
The closer, "December", is a short but sweet bit of pleasantness, couched in sleigh bells and harmonies (with Mark Bacino on backing vocals), and offering optimism for a new year ahead.
Sticky is an auspicious debut from a band that takes itself seriously enough, but never too much so. Karas, Leone, and company are growing as songwriters, and while the playful songs still work well, there's a growing sense from the quality of the slower, deeper songs here that a more serious future lies ahead, in the best possible sense. - Gary Glauber, PopMatters Music Critic
Back in 1988, a man in his 30s was trying to explain to me why the Bangles were such a revelation to him and his peers.
"When the Beatles first came on the scene," he said, "girls went crazy over them not just because they played great music, but because they were sexy," he said. "Guys never had a band like that."
I'm reminded of that as I listen to this, the first album by New York's Trouble Dolls. Not that it's overtly Beatlesque‹the Fabs exist here more as what journalists call "deep background"‹but because of the excitement of hearing Cherie Leone's remarkable voice over such beautiful, pure pop music. Fifteen years after the Bangles, there are still practically no women with outstanding, songbird voices‹distaff equivalents of Lennon or McCartney‹directing their talents towards unabashedly melodic rock and roll.
Leone's gorgeous yet utterly unaffected singing, bringing to mind Christine McVie after having her boyfriend stolen by Debbie Harry, is perfect for the Trouble Dolls' sound, which is likewise different from anything else around.
The tracks on Sticky, penned mostly by guitarist Matty Karas, are split radically between new-wave bubblegum rockers and haunting ballads‹the latter showing considerable depth. The minimalist production of "Marcelle," for example, projects Leone's vulnerable vocals over a haunting, circular guitar riff that finds the middle ground between the Airplane's "White Rabbit," Ravel's "Bolero," and the Beatles' "I Want to Tell You."
The one track on the album that straddles the fence between bounciness and despair happens to be the best. "I Don't Know Anything at All" is one of those number-one hits in my universe that would probably be a well-played album track in the real world. I say that because I know that radio programmers judge hits by bang-on openings, whereas this song has the opposite‹an inexorable pull. Instead of mallet-like punches, it's punctuated by ever-growing emotional waves. Back in the days of the great ballads‹the Association's "Cherish"; the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling"; or a more apt comparison, the Bee Gees' "World," this technique was known as a "build." Very few artists can achieve it nowadays.
"I Don't Know Anything at All" draws me in with its "Eve of Destruction"-style opening, and then utterly hooks me with Leone's plaintive, "I stay at home alone at night..." I must have listened to this song a total of 50 times and it still ends before it can wear out its welcome.
The new-wave bubblegum tracks contain some of the irony familiar in twee-pop acts (I could do without Leone's disrupting the flowery "Your Love Is the Sunshine" with a Bon Scott imitation), but they still betray a sincere love of the genre. The best of them, "I Finally Figured Out," with its Raindrops-style male/female vocal switchoffs, modernizes the Brill Building sound with an exuberance that hasn't been heard since Blondie covered the Shangri-Las' "Out in the Streets."
Blondie is, in fact, an apt comparison for the Trouble Dolls, not because the T-Dolls sound like Harry and crew‹they've got a far greater range‹but because Sticky is the first album since Blondie that really stands a chance of appealing to fans of every era of great pop music, from the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Kinks, right up to Stiff Records artists and modern-day hipsters like Guided By Voices. - Dawn Eden
A semi-hip executive at the Cartoon Network seeks a PG-rated pop band for a programme aimed at pubescent future Pooh Sticks fanatics. Respondents include Sticky, a debut full-length aglow with Juliana Hatfield harmonies, handclaps and whatnot, where tambourines smell like fake tan and gold dust guitars grin like sin. Rather disappointingly, Sticky refers to bubblegum, not bodily fluids. Nevertheless, it reminds executive of summer of '91 in Ramiro's van with Molly who couldn't put her playfulness aside. Application accepted. - Shane Moritz, Careless Talk Costs Lives