The Stairs

Mexican R&B [Deluxe Edition]

(CD - Cherry Red #CDTRED 736)

Review by

When they first started playing in 1990, the Stairs were out of step with the times. There weren't too many bands playing reverent versions of rugged garage rock, rollicking psych-pop, and jangling folk-rock in the U.K., or anywhere. Bassist/vocalist Edgar Jones, guitarist Ged Lynn, and drummer Paul Maguire took old Pebbles, Nuggets, and Rubbles compilations, stole all the best parts, and rebuilt them into new-ish tunes for the modern scene. They made some early fans and ended up recording a batch of EPs, then released their retro masterpiece Mexican R 'n' B in 1992. The album features pastiches of the Seeds, the Stones, the Who, the Chocolate Watchband, and countless groups with names like the Livin' End and the Night Riders, all done with supersonic power thanks to the trio's muscular playing and Jones' booming vocals. He definitely has some Jagger snarl, but adds enough lung power to strip the paint off the back wall of the club. The record isn't particularly inventive or surprising; its strength comes from the band doing such a good job researching and re-creating so many great sounds and records. They show mastery of bummer folk-rock on the chiming "Sweet Sweet Thing," essay loping British psych-pop on "Mr Window Pane," deliver blistering garage rock that sounds like early versions of the Stooges and MC5 fighting over the practice room PA ("Right in the Back of Your Mind"), take an expansive psychedelic journey on the Byrds-meet-the Doors "Fall Down the Rain," and like any garage rock band worth their salt, knock out some blues-wailing jams like "Wrap Me Round Your Finger" and the Spencer Davis Group-y "Woman Gone and Say Goodbye." They also managed to pen not one, but two, odes to marijuana with the "Magic Bus"-quoting "Weed Bus" and the boot-stomping rocker "Mary Joanna." Mexican R 'n' B is at its core a total nostalgia trip, but the band's energy and knack for writing hooky songs make it a trip worth taking, especially with Jones calling out the sights along the way. [Cherry Red's three-disc expansion of Mexican R 'n' B serves as a definitive collection of the band's work. Along with the original album, the first disc adds songs taken from the singles they recorded for Go! Discs prior to the album. The second disc collects raw demos and early songs recorded before they signed their record deal, and a selection of demos, extra tracks, and versions made during the time they were with Go! Discs. Of note are the two demos of "Weed Bus," the songs recorded at Toe Rag Studios (including the smile-inducing Northern Soul-inspired "It Was Alright"), and a rocking take on "Flying Machine." Disc three is made up of the album they worked on and ultimately discarded. Who Is This Is was a chore to make and some of it falls a little flat, especially the overly aggressive blues numbers, but much of it sounds like a worthy follow-up to Mexican R 'n' B. The tracks definitely have an unfinished quality and it sounds like they were struggling to find a sound, but it's hard to ignore the power of songs like the moody "Saw Her Today" and the strutting "Talkin' to You." The rest of the disc is made up of extra tracks recorded just before the band split in 1994. Most if not all the songs on the second two discs were released on one of three collections issued by Viper Records over the years, but it's nice to have all the band's vital output collected in one place.]

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 00:14 Amazon
2 02:40 Amazon
3 03:48 Amazon
4 02:16 Amazon
5 04:27 Amazon
6 02:24 Amazon
7 02:50 Amazon
8 07:24 Amazon
9 00:44 Amazon
10 02:14 Amazon
11 03:05 Amazon
12 02:13 Amazon
13 03:21 Amazon
14 04:43 Amazon
15 07:26 Amazon
16 00:29 Amazon
17 01:47 Amazon
18 03:28 Amazon
19 02:07 Amazon
20 02:56 Amazon
21 02:50 Amazon
22 02:45 Amazon
23 02:20 Amazon
24 02:31 Amazon
25 02:29 Amazon
26 03:22 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick