Album Review: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes - 'Sticky'

Three albums in, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes have already established themselves as a favourite amongst fans of hard, alternative rock. The Mic's James Pusey explores how this punky duo's sound and songwriting has developed in 2021 for their latest offering, 'Sticky'.

Coming out of 2020 and the global lockdown, Frank Carter and Dean Richardson’s masterful song writing capabilities produced the band’s fourth LP Sticky. One year and eight months after playing a sold-out show at Alexandra Palace, and the duo have demonstrated they have not lost their touch.

Sticky is a collection of quick, punchy anthems that are unapologetically overflowing with the type of energy so characteristic of Carter and co, and only lasting a total of 28 minutes. However, not a second of this runtime is wasted. The Rattlesnakes tackle their go-to themes of nights out, sexual encounters and mental health issues with expert precision, with no surprises in Carter’s powerful vocal delivery or Richardson’s expert production. Whilst there are lots of typical features to the album, guest appearances from Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream), Joe Talbot (IDLES), Lynks and Cassyette help give the outing a few injections of unique sound pairings that, as well as more electronic elements and a stronger bass in their songs, are a welcome addition to the project.

The opening song and title track of the album sees vocals expressing the emotions of a night on the town post-midnight. Paired with a strong bass melody in the verse and potent guitar chords in the chorus, not to mention a bridge that is reminiscent of dark, dingy nightclubs, Sticky perfectly sets the scene for the rest of the album. Cupid’s Arrow is a typical Rattlesnake’s tune, describing the pain that can come with lustful love, alongside Richardson’s classic sound on guitar. Clearly a successful route for them in the past, its yet another strong album track for the band.

"The Rattlesnakes, with guest Joe Talbot of post-punk band IDLES, use the duo of strong, angry male vocals, alongside more electronic elements in the typical mix of punk rock instrumentation, to potently point out the issues in urban and suburban England."

The first guest appearance of the LP comes from Lynks, who uses their verse on Bang Bang to demonstrate the stylistic Britishness so typical of Elliot Brett’s alter-ego. Detailing the story of a night-on-drugs-gone-wrong, the song’s matchup is brilliantly crafted to bring the best out of both artists. In the same vein of many of the other songs on the album, Take It To The Brink emanates the anxiety-ridden feeling that can come along with a heavy night of drinking. Metaphors referencing physical pain, nightmares and wolves contrast with a distinctly major chord sequence, which plays alongside a driving drum beat that successfully mirrors the theme of the song.

My Town, the lead single for the album, explores a different theme for the group. Exploring ideas of the lack of unity in neighbourhoods and the issues that that generates, The Rattlesnakes, with guest Joe Talbot of post-punk band IDLES, use the duo of strong, angry male vocals, alongside more electronic elements in the typical mix of punk rock instrumentation, to potently point out the issues in urban and suburban England. Lynks makes a second appearance on the album in Go Get A Tattoo. This time, the matchup throws their cares away in exchange for going out and enjoying life, especially in a post-lockdown world. A driving bassline mixes with the lyrics to provoke audience memories of drunken nights where nothing matters except having a good time, just as the song encourages you to do.

In a third consecutive song with a feature, Off With His Head openly attacks the patriarchal society and its tendency to keep down others. Cassyette’s overly brief verse is made up for by her spectacular harmonies with Carter in the chorus, with the typical Rattlesnake sound powerfully attacking notions of straight, white, male oppression of others. Then comes Cobra Queen, which much like Cupid’s Arrow is reminiscent of many other songs by the band. Another strong employment of the familiar ides, imagery and instrumentation that fill Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes’ back catalogue.

Dominated with criticisms of the government and the system as a whole, Rat Race is driving commentary on post-lockdown issues, including the accountability of those in charge of the nation, as well as deteriorating mental health caused by a year-or-so inside. An unpolished guitar solo as well as squeaky saxophone improvisation add to the themes of this penultimate track. Capping off the album is Original Sin, a song that tackles common Carter themes of sin, love and religious iconography. However, the reason this song stands out is the instrumentation: guitar takes a backseat for bass and synth, with a lovely breakdown before Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream gently delivers his lyrics as the song rebuilds to finish the LP beautifully.

In many ways Sticky is a new direction for Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes; long gone are the days of Blossom, their debut album full of heavy guitar, angry lyrics and raw delivery. Instead, their newest album is much more crafted, leaning more into indie rock than metal. However, the pathway here is much more of an evolution for the band. With each new release, the duo of Carter and Richardson are constantly refining their skills, producing a more and more distinct sound for the band. Whilst plenty of elements of the album are very reminiscent of their past successes, they keep finding new ways to keep their sound fresh. With a great supporting cast of both legendary and rising talent, the production is free to experiment with more electronic sounds, as well as continue to replicate what they already nailed. Yes, it is a vastly different album to Blossom, but put after their other successes of Modern Ruin and End of Suffering, Sticky is another progression in Carter’s Rattlesnakes era.

Whilst not on the A-List of rock artists, Carter and co. have proven once again their outstanding ability to create music, with every song possessing the capability to captivate the audience on their upcoming November tour. Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, after a year in lockdown, have once again provided anthems for their fans to get sticky to.

Written by: James Pusey

Edited by: Elliot Fox

In article images courtesy of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes via Facebook. Video courtesy of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes via YouTube.