The straightforward review of The Deadly Desert’s new album Poor Me and the Pity Party would sound like this: few musical creations reveal the full scope of work and vision behind them in the way that the new record from Chris Stern and his band does. It’s a piece of analog art that explores the process of creating an album more than it celebrates the release of it.
But, there was something different about this album. I was intrigued by the Sisyphean work put into it, and I was equally intrigued by the relative obscurity it was released into. So, I’ll let that story frame the album like this: Chris Stern, like all great musicians, comes from Woonsocket. He found his way through a smattering of ska bands interconnected in ways I can only imagine ska bands to be until he was, as I believe all ska bands aspire to be, on tour with The Mighty Mighty Bosstones in the band Westbound Train. It was in this band that he met Alex Stern. “We hit it off almost immediately.” Chris says, “We wrote our first song together on that tour.”
It was with their Brit-pop band, The Sterns, that Chris and Alex found late 2000’s success – becoming a critic’s band, getting signed and eventually taking off on tours opening for the likes of Apples in Stereo and the Meat Puppets. But, in true Brit-pop fashion, a triangle between The Sterns and their label led to what Chris calls the “lamest fist fight that you’ve ever seen” and a breakup in 2008.
As life continued on, Chris returned to music as a response to what was happening in his life. Chris says, “As I wrote tunes, some were very heavy emotionally but there was something almost lighthearted about writing something so gut-wrenching. So I was sort of laughing at my own misery as a way of coping.”
Chris recorded Poor Me and the Pity Party with long-time collaborator Richard Marr at Galaxy Park Studios, and The Deadly Desert is composed of Ryan Tremblay, Jarod Cournoyer and Kathleen Dona-Zavalia of local acts The Stilts and The Lexies.
The mythos surrounding an album has the power to bring it into the relief of the real world in a way that doesn’t happen with other pieces of music. Some artists have an album fully realized but they remain disconnected from the real world outside of it. What the band accomplishes so well on Poor Me and the Pity Party is they let the real world swirl around in the album. They’ve painstakingly tracked every sound to analog tape and worked to make every moment of each track something planned in an unplanned existence. Chris Stern has put together an album solely focused on being just what it is. In his words, “it can just exist.”
After years of sitting on his songs, the re-working, rehearsing and methodical recording led up to a quiet release on Bandcamp on election night. As the votes came in for Trump, Chris Stern released an album for the world to hear, turned off his computer and let it be.
The Deadly Desert
February 25 – Album release show at AS220
115 Empire Street