At 16 tracks, you can be forgiven for being wary of just how consistent Andrew Stockdale’s latest record Keep Moving can ultimately be. Fear not, for Keep Moving is consistently dull and uninspired. There’s no filler as such: the very notion would presuppose some kind of waning interstice between more remarkable tracks, and there’s none of that. As the title implies, this album just keeps on moving, cruising at a leisurely pace to nowhere in particular, without even hinting at giving a fuck about the other people in the car. It would appear that Andrew Stockdale’s moving on an empty tank.
His music has progressed from pastiche to routine. Stockdale thinks in cliché, almost as if he feels he’s been tasked by the gods with completing some unfinished business of the 1970s. Even a riff lifted from Can’t You Hear Me Knocking doesn’t elevate opener Long Way To Go. The Hawkwind-ish Let It Go sticks to the more familiar routes of the final frontier, and the less said about the mundane country posturing of Suitcase the better. Adding itself rather unceremoniously to the Songs About An Anonymous Oddball Chick Almanac is Let Somebody Love You: “You live in a box / you’re built out of rocks”.
Even potential highlights are squandered. The excellent Year Of The Dragon is impeded by a swinging drum beat that turns it from a headbanger to a toe-tapper. This brings more attention to the awkward bridges that have been spliced in, where Stockdale mouths off about some clichéd Chinese Zodiac malarkey. Meridian slides the listener into a comfortable groove with some beefy guitars, but at over 4 minutes this snarling rawker overstays its welcome. On Of The Earth, the chorus – a single meandering vowel – sounds like Woody Woodpecker’s laugh, only somehow more obnoxious.
Throughout the album, Stockdale’s singing is uncannily similar to Jack White’s, with the music a by-rote rehash of tattered rock classicism similar to White’s Blunderbuss (right down to the trademark whammy making its shrill self heard on some rather lacklustre fills). The difference between the two, though, is that Stockdale doesn’t have the personality necessary to sustain such pedestrian manoeuvres. He simply doesn’t possess the kind of sonic, lyrical and conceptual idiosyncrasies that White does, and as a result Keep Moving feels constantly wanting.
Stockdale notions towards still harbouring the old ember of infectious mosh-rock that made Wolfmother worthwhile on the track Vicarious. There’s a solid riff and pounding drums, but for some inexplicable reason Stockdale never lets go. The track stays oddly subdued, almost as if the stale chorus is meant to be some sort of hook: “You’re living vicariously / Tell me what’s it’s like to be me?”
And therein lies the main problem with Keep Moving. For some reason, Stockdale fancies himself a crafty singer-songwriter and, unfortunately for his ego, he isn’t. Stockdale’s talents as a songwriter don’t lie with lyrics or melodies or hooks. Sonically he was reared on Zeppelin and Sabbath by way of QOTSA, and his Floyd fetish has never translated into any kind of studio wizardry. The guy is best enjoyed as a live act, his music about heavy, catchy riffs that leave audience members with one less Chuck Taylor. On Keep Moving those riffs are often playing second-fiddle to some wannabe hook or spouted dime-store mysticism, otherwise they’re missing altogether. The album well and truly suffers as a result of this hapless omission.