It’s often difficult to make a high-octane, angsty record sound sonically cohesive and put-together, but British rockers Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes make it seem effortless on their fourth studio album, Sticky. Tackling sticky situations like the aftermath of COVID-19 lockdowns, failed romances, and society’s patriarchal standards, the band airs their grievances and showcases their unrelenting spirit over the course of ten energetic tracks.
The record opens with its title track, which thrusts the listener into the high-stakes environment that helped birth the project. It also reflects the unreachable pressures the band and society place on themselves, describing the feeling of “standing on the edge, but never fully breaking through.”
“This is about me doing this slow transition from the countryside to Hoxton, London, in the middle of a pandemic,” frontman Frank Carter told Apple Music. “Moving further away from my family but closer to my work—and moving into the belly of the beast at a time when there was no one else around. The song takes a pretty brutal look at who I was when everything was taken away from me, just kicking around with too much time on my hands.”
The grunge-tinged “Cupid’s Arrow” illustrates romantic misadventures while “looking for a partner in crime,” and what happens when the person you thought would be the Bonnie to your Clyde aren’t all they were cracked up to be. It describes not only navigating that specific relationship, but also the fear of not finding the ideal partnership after you “lost your dream.”
“This is about falling in love with someone a little bit quicker than they fall in love with you—and by that, I mean they never do,” Carter explains. “We’ve all had those weird dating app dates where you find yourself at one in the morning having a panic attack in someone’s bed, like, ‘Have you got any CBD or anything?’ It’s about how emotions are thoughts and feelings but they can feel so physical.”
The first of two Lynks collaborations on Sticky, “Bang Bang” has all the makings of a Green Day or Sex Pistols classic. The song describes the dangers of substance abuse through an Alice in Wonderland-esque metaphor of following a rabbit before falling into a risky rabbit hole.
“It’s about how class A drugs just have such a tremendous effect on your life in good and bad ways,” Carter shares. “I was writing it from the perspective of this office worker who’s just biding his time, gets to Thursday and he’s already tipping a bit, and by Friday at 8 pm, he’s already off the rails, and then 8 am Monday morning, he’s still off the rails, but he’s back in the office. Lynks just got it. His lyrics are some of my favorite on the album, and that is incredibly frustrating.”
The perfect anthem for a workaholic world, “Take It To The Brink” embodies the gritty sound present on memorable projects like My Chemical Romance’s Conventional Weapons. Carter describes it as being “about doing too much all the time,” and the track shines as one of the album’s most relatable moments.
“This one technically predates the album,” multi-instrumentalist Dean Richardson explains. “We’d written this wild psychedelic version of the verse, and took a second dive at it when we were in the midst of everything and got it to feel like it fits in the world of Sticky.”
“My Town” beckons the empty towns and vacant cities we all faced during COVID-19 lockdowns. Complete with a verse from Joe Talbot of IDLES, it describes a sense of loneliness and misery while still carrying an air of unity and connection (“my town, it looks like yours”).
Carter says, “I was trying to find a decent analogy for the collective mental health of not just London, but all the smaller towns that I was nipping to and from during the pandemic to see family or pick up my daughter. Without life, you could really start seeing those places fall apart, and that was a good reflection of how everybody in those towns was feeling.”
Lead single “Go Get a Tattoo” draws from the COVID-19 pandemic in a unique fashion, drawing from Carter’s love of tattooing and experiences during lockdown. The quirky track recruits Lynks in a celebration of doing what you love, appreciating what you have, and turning inward rather than fixating on current events or what others are up to (“smash your TV, burn the news”).
“Without tattooing, I wouldn’t be the person I am,” Carter explains. “It gives me a way to get closer to friends, family, and fans, and provides intimate connections with people to create memories that can last lifetimes. I signed the lease for my first ever tattoo shop, Rose of Mercy, on March 1st, 2020. Within 3 weeks, we were closed and I had no idea when we were going to open. I’m not sure if I ever truly took tattooing for granted (I’d like to think I’ve always had respect for it), but I do know that I won’t ever take it for granted in the future.”
Fellow British rocker Cassyette hops on “Off With His Head” for a biting criticism of social norms and everyday sexism over a buzzing bassline. As the only female voice on the project, Cassyette adds a new dimension to Sticky, offering a fresh perspective on one of the record’s most energetic tracks.
“Patriarchal society is a plague; it’s a pyramid scheme,” Carter insists. “It has strict regulations regarding who and how it benefits and is unique in its ability to oppress people at the exact same time it benefits them. ‘Off With His Head’ is a scathing generalized attack on trolls whose only joy in life is flexing their sixth-form grammar and Proud Boy mentality with the same smug tact as both sides of the fence in Good Will Hunting.”
“Cobra Queen” describes an intriguing, dangerous woman who the band can’t quite land a relationship with. It speaks to the difficulty of finding love in the digital age and a global pandemic when romance is the last thing on some people’s minds.
This kind of goes hand in hand with ‘Cupid’s Arrow,’” Carter explains. “It’s about when you’re chasing down this unrequited love and falling in love with the wrong people. You never know when that’s happening until it’s happened. It’s about the intoxication, it’s like a cobra being in the room. It’s beautiful. It’s fucking deadly, but you just don’t take your eyes off it.”
Going from one animal analogy to another, “Rat Race” is a drum-heavy track that looks back on how the pandemic affected the world. With a cool guitar solo, it’s an energetic exploration of humanity, stress, and endless possibility.
“‘Rat Race’ is about the first year of lockdown and how savage and Groundhog Day it was for everybody,” Carter shares. “The pandemic was an equalizer for most humans. When we get to the end of the pandemic, it’s as if every rat has completed the race and now they’ve got a choice: Do you want to go back in the maze or do you want to go into something else? The sad thing is a lot of people will go back in the maze.”
The album closes with the reflective “Original Sin,” a collaboration with Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream that describes various vices and the fight to break unhealthy habits. It leaves listeners with a feeling of not being alone in their struggles, while also encouraging them to fight the cycle and push to create healthier behaviors.
“Whether we mean to or not, we leave our records on this kind of tease of what might come next,” Richardson says. “If you go through all our records, the last track is always where I think we’ve started moving into our future.”
We can’t wait to see what lies in that future for Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes! In the meantime, you can check out Sticky on your favorite streaming services now, and get to know the band on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and their official website.
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Hi! I’m Madison Murray, a pop culture and music writer who also loves writing about lifestyle and fashion. I have credits on sites like TREMG, Young Hollywood, and Audible Addixion, and I’m the founder of Melodic Musings. In addition to writing, I’m a community editor on Genius, lyric curator on Musixmatch, and a playlist curator at VOLUP2. My favorite artists include Taylor Swift, Machine Gun Kelly, BLACKPINK, Elko, phem, and YUNGBLUD. She/her.