Is there any better way to kick start a year than with the release of brand new music? For Melbourne’s Stuck Out, I’d harbour a guess that their answer is ‘no’. As the band prepare to dive into 2020 with the release of their brand-new single “Who You Are”, we dove into the new song to ask the ever-important question; have Stuck Out figured out who they are?
From the very outset of “Who You Are”, the growth and change that Stuck Out have undergone in the past year seems crystal-clear. The gentle synth that underlies the first guitar riff of the song speaks volumes of a band that are learning to open themselves up and explore their own ability. There’s a softness to the beginning of “Who You Are” that, while short-lived, paints the band in the most dynamic light that they’ve ever been in. There’s a comfortable calmness within frontman Joshua Walker’s vocals, but as should’ve always been expected, it’s the calm before the storm.
And when the song hits, because we knew it always would, it becomes clear as day that Stuck Out haven’t just picked up from where they left off, but built on the foundations that they’ve developed over the course of the last five years. Calmness gives way to angst and the familiarity of the Stuck Out that fans have come to know and love feels like a warm embrace but the difference is in how the band have chosen to deliver it. Where previously the band have partnered anguish with hostility, now there’s a gentleness within the band that defines the way they play.
Despite this placidity, “Who You Are” is like a pressure gauge, threatening to explode at any time. This pressure builds slowly through the song’s first verse, but it’s as the first chorus that the band truly start to turn up the heat. The drums begin to hit harder while the guitar and bass become more vibrant in what is by any measure one of the best choruses the band have ever delivered. The way Walker delivers his vocal melodies feels unchanged but it suits perfectly to hook listeners in. For me, it’s the guitar riff that repeats throughout that really caught me and drew me in.
“Your anxiety’s choking
On the lies that you’ve sown in me“
While the first chorus brings the punch, the defining moment of the song comes shortly after midway through the song’s second verse. It’s the song’s breaking point, where Walker’s vocals are met with his growing aggression as he yells, “I’m fucking shaking at the thought of you embracing who you are”, that the entire energy of the song shifts. As if the band were weighed down by torment, this moment signals them breaking free from the distress that held them back throughout the first half of the song. It’s an empowering moment, that channels individual strength and vigour.
The emotion that the song champions musically mirrors that which the band meant to communicate with the song. A song about the toxic grip people can have on your life, Walker explains that “Realising and breaking free of that stranglehold isn’t an easy feat, but once you block out their influence in your life, you’re empowered to become the person you choose to be.” It’s an ever-important message, that Stuck Out have so succinctly conversed through “Who You Are” both lyrically and musically.
Also partnered with a music video, the song’s visuals showcase the band as a four-piece for the first time since the departure of their original guitarist Bren Dugan. While the video is simple by design, it’s an important declaration of identity for the band as they prepare to move forward with their promising career. It is a picture of the band stronger than ever, with no intention of slowing down any time soon.
While I have remained a fan of Stuck Out for some time, it seems that for a while now every time the group would leap forward they also hesitated backwards with one eye on their past. “Who You Are” is the first time that the band truly seem to be taking a concentrated step forward, with the band confident in their own identity and courageous enough to explore new influences and additions into their music. The song celebrates the band’s pop-punk roots, but channels an alt-rock influence and bands like Basement more than ever before. As “Who You Are” reaches its climactic ending it’s clear to see that Stuck Out seem to truly understand who they are.