Joe Strummer and Joey Ramone: A Leeroy Stagger Album Review

“Music was always around when I was a kid. At my grandparent's house, it was Waylon, Willie, Johnny Cash and lots of 90’s country like Hal Ketchum and John Anderson. My dad was into the Rolling Stones, The Romantics and had a bunch of tapes lying around in boxes. In the boxes, I discovered the Stooges for the first time. On a family trip to his high school friends Jack’s place, Jack played me The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Jam and The Clash for the first time. My mom was into U2, The Tragically Hip, The Commitments, Melissa Etheridge and The Pixies. I’ve never really compiled that list before and now that I'm looking at it, it’s pretty plain to see where my influences come from.”
Leeroy Stagger and his mix of influences have blended together to create 11 albums, including the recently released Love Versus. Lyrically, this record tells a personal story that he admittedly worked on harder than any of his previous writing. Sonically, he chose the best of producers and musicians to drive those lyrics home.  

The band playing on the record included Pete Thomas, longtime drummer for Elvis Costello; Paul Rigby of Neko Case; Geoff Hilhorst of The Deep Dark Woods; and his longtime bassist Tyson Maiko. Three weeks in the studio and Love Versus was created.

This is Stagger's first album that was recorded in his new home studio in Canada. The space was being built right up to the first moments of recording, from the rough cut Douglas fir walls to the 18 foot ceilings. “I’ve modelled it after the gatefold of Neil Young’s harvest,” he said.

By being fully immersed in the creation of the album by being in his own studio, each track is strategically placed in an order that won’t soon be forgotten. The progression up to this album is not only a noteworthy resume but ten other albums that show just how much harder he worked this time around.

From the specific sounds of the studio to the talent of each musician, the central theme of this album hits powerfully. After a personal event that led him to rethink his outlook on life, Love Versus rings loudly with sense of appreciation for life itself. “It forced me to deal with my own fears and in the end inspired me to want to live my life fully but also understand what it is to be grateful for the people and things I already have in my life,” he said. “During my healing process, I really pondered over the idea if love was enough to right the wrongs and mistakes I’ve made as well as heal my anxieties, fears and depression. I think it's pretty close. Self-compassion and gratitude have done wonders for me. So the title really means Love Versus and against everything else.”

Stand-out tracks include “I Want It All”, the first track that brilliantly captures both the theme and Stagger's vocals, and “Joe Strummer and Joey Ramone”, an homage to the musician idols of his childhood. “I Want It All” also hit number two on Spotify’s Canada Viral 50 chart and hit the top ten on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart.

Love Versus is available now via True North Records.