IVOR TYMCHAK experiences Styckleback at The Hop, Wakefield
I’d only ever seen photos of Styckleback taken by Lloyd Spencer. The photos were something else though, the energy radiating from them excited a primitive part of my brain, so when I discovered this four-piece band from Leeds were playing The Hop in Wakefield I went to experience their live show.
All the early signs were good: Marshall stacks, Gibson Les Paul’s, Fender bass, leather trousers… the genre could only be rock. Hard rock.
There was an expectant crowd. It was apparent the majority eagerly followed the band to every gig.
When the band hit the stage it was the bass player who stood out. Firstly, his sound was so powerful every time he hit an open E, it surely registered on nearby seismographs as minor earth tremors, and secondly, he is one-eyed. I recently jammed with a thumbless drummer and I thought that was remarkable, but a one-eyed, leather-clad bass player goes into exotic territory. I wondered why he didn’t wear an eye patch in the style of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates (they even had Shakin’ All Over in their set list) but realised it could easily be mistaken for affectation; showing the scar told the audience here is the real deal.
And that is the essence of their appeal: a bunch of working-class labourers digging a deep groove with musical instruments and doing it with such ability and physical effort it’s a pleasure to behold. Other than the lead guitarist, they all sing with distinction. They all play expertly. They all look the part — mean, unpretentious, comfortable in their own skins.
They’re a covers band — you can find such bands in their thousands up and down the country, but Styckleback manage to tick all the rock ’n roll boxes and stand out from the crowd. With the relentless cynicism and pessimism prevalent today, it’s a delight to come across something that is so unpretentious and joyful it invites you to give your critical faculties a rest and just abandon yourself to the atavistic beat.