CD Review

Snuttock – “Straight Jacket Life”

By Marcus Pan

Straight Jacket Life“As indie as possible,” says Bryan Lee, sole member of Snuttock. Him and an engineer is all it took to put Straight Jacket Life together. Unsullied by the “too many cooks” analogy, Lee has one guest musician on the Straight Jacket Life release, Christopher Lee, and an engineer, C. Lee Simmonds, and that covers all the involved folks. The mix is clean, well thought out and doesn’t suffer from an over-barrage of different people’s different sounds.

Snuttock, in a weird way, reminds me of China Doll[1]. A bit tongue in cheek, pop-centric styled but with a latticework of darker intentions. Like You, which kicks off Straight Jacket Life, has a weirdness about it. A lament about being different than anyone else – a common theme, yes, but treated in a tongue in cheek, interesting and strange manner that I have to appreciate it. Life on the other hand takes a more techno track but keeps it downplayed and subdued. Wander is an ambient instrumental stuck in between Life and Why.

I dig Why for its smooth nature and bright sound. Reminiscent of work by I, Synthesist[2] or Esion[3], Why is a synthpop trip through a field of fun. But it ends quickly and leaves us in the slightly darker Spiders, but the flow of the music between the two tracks is virtually perfect as Why’s X-laden romp spills you into the acid-laced Spiders. I gets more stompier with an industrial flavor without the overbearing deluge typical of the style.

Empty is nearly another instrumental; spooky pianos and strings melding together to create an interesting dark atmosphere following the previous brighter tracks on Straight Jacket Life. Bryan will occasionally show up to complain about “times like these.” A surprising low key guitar shows up in Lifeless taking the album in a darker, newer and just as interesting direction. The lyrics here can use a bit of work though, being a bit underachieving.

Everybody gets weird with strange synthetics and an unpredictable vocal score. I got worried at the opening of What as a common-beat stock drum machine starts clipping away. The mixed in guitars and synthetics do a good job of interesting-it-up somewhat. Not the best track on Straight Jacket Life, but still decent – underachieving lyrics again and the stock beat do combine to make it a little blasé.

I dig this CD for its panache, humor and clean style. Unafraid to borrow effective tricks from pop radio and infusing it into a darker elemental groove, Lee’s Snuttock project has dropped a good release on my desk. Very well produced, great engineering and solid mixing and Bryan doesn’t delve too deeply into the “press all the buttons” syndrome of a one-man electronica outfit. Just enough weird and just enough groove makes Straight Jacket Life both fun and unusual.

Contact Information:
Post: PO Box 9717, Baltimore, MD, 21284-9717, USA
[1] China Doll’s Pop Noir was reviewed in Legends #105.
[2] His Avalanche album was reviewed in Legends #147.
[3] Esion’s En Route was written up in Legends #102.