When rock music first came to Ireland, it did so in the form of showbands, travelling cover acts who alternated between different hits. Out of the showbands came artists like Van Morrison and Wings guitarist Henry McCullough, as Celtic rock grew into its own entity in the 1960s and ‘70s. Hard-rocking bands like Thin Lizzy and The Boomtown Rats went from Dublin clubs to the global stage, and later generations brought beloved groups like My Bloody Valentine and The Cranberries. It makes sense that Ireland took so well to the genre, as rock and roll has the same qualities of fiery emotion and mythic storytelling as the best Celtic ballads. The Stoles, formed in Dublin in 2015, will likely draw comparisons to the band the world thinks of when asked to picture Irish rock: U2. On their new record Age of Deception (whose cover has a Banksy-like graffiti showing an astronaut, the Statue of Liberty, and a clever 12 Monkeys reference), they flaunt an early 80s post-punk sound with room for experimentation. There is something in the album’s pounding beats and lush wall-of-guitars sound that recalls the cool intensity of early U2 classics like “New Year’s Day”. The post-punk genre is built on a sort of contradiction, marrying the energy and spontaneity of punk with the sheen of precise production techniques that defined the new wave era. It’s an ethos that The Stoles use to great effect, while managing to stand out from the crowd of post-punk revival acts.
“Getaway”, the first track on Age of Deception, was released as a single last summer and gave the still-new band some attention in continental Europe. The song is a brilliant little piece of alternative rock songwriting, wound around a gorgeous wordless chorus with a hypnotic pull. While they still have a post-punk feel to them, the group’s influences don’t just stop at the early 80s, as the next track shows. “Evelyn” makes masterful use of the loud-quiet-loud sound that shaped 1990s rock, switching between relaxing dream pop and crackling riffs. The album’s abundance of strong hooks is especially clear on “Rock ‘n’ Roll (All I Want Is)”, anchored by a very tight New Order-esque bassline. On “I Don’t Get Along With You,” the energy level is kept high thanks to a fast honky-tonk piano motif and Tom Petty-like sense of humor.
Age of Deception closes out with a song called, well, Age of Deception, which is maybe the strongest tune on the whole record. Snappy guitar solos and a slicing bass make it just as danceable as the rest of the record, but what really sets it apart are the lyrics. “And welcome to the Age of Deception” is not a totally original sentiment when it comes to punk-adjacent music, but it sums up how so much of the world feels right now. “Take your place in the new lost generation,” lead singer Antonio adds—a wonderfully cold note to close out the disc with. The Stoles have an incredibly refined, confident sound for a band that’s still new-ish, and I eagerly await their next move.