The Big Review: Fender Steve Lacy People Pleaser Stratocaster – the fuzz you never knew you needed

The Big Review: Fender Steve Lacy People Pleaser Stratocaster – the fuzz you never knew you needed

Steve Lacy might only be 25, but you already get the sense that the Grammy-winning artist has paid his dues and earned his stripes. He first pinged on the pop radar as part of critically acclaimed alt-R&B outfit The Internet for a couple of records between 2015 and 2019, while he was also busy producing, writing and collaborating with everyone from Kendrick Lamar and Solange, to Vampire Weekend and Mac Miller.

READ MORE: Fender Limited Edition H.E.R. Stratocaster review: one of Fender’s strongest signature guitars in years

The Compton product’s career has really taken off in the last year or two, however – in 2022 he scored his first US number 1 single with Bad Habit while the album it was taken from, Gemini Rights, scored a Grammy win back in February. There was also the small matter of being named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2023 alongside the likes of Beyoncé, Michael B Jordan, Doja Cat and er, Joe Biden.
Steve Lacy’s signature on the Fender Steve Lacy People Pleaser Stratocaster. Image: Adam Gasson
Almost more interesting than his placing on the list was the photoshoot Lacy did to accompany it – there he was sitting casually on a stack of Magnatone amps in front of a wall of esoteric electric guitars at LA’s uber-hip guitar store Old Style Guitars, it felt like a statement.
In a pop environment where the guitar is not always the most visible instrument, Lacy was nailing his colours to the wall, literally. The mainstream world might rightly celebrate him as a precociously talented multi-hyphenate, but he is first and foremost a guitar player.
Which brings us to Fender’s latest signature model – the Steve Lacy People Pleaser Stratocaster, and in many ways it typifies his approach to the instrument. While it might look like just another Stratocaster from a distance, closer inspection reveals that this is one of the most unique signature instruments Fender has ever produced.
Fender Steve Lacy People Pleaser Stratocaster. Image: Adam Gasson
Let’s start off with the colour applied to that classic alter body, which Fender is calling ‘Chaos burst’. At a first, brief glance it looks like a 60s-style three-tone sunburst but that’s not the case – what would normally be red is actually a bright pink, a colour which covers the entire rear of the guitar, aside from the black sunburst edges. It’s familiar and yet different, which sums up this guitar neatly.
The maple neck is also a little different, ornamented with white pearl dots on the front and side, while there’s a dice motif inlaid into the 12th fret. Flipping the guitar over and in addition to Lacy’s signature on the back of the headstock you’ll also see a ‘face’ doodle engraved into the neckplate, while the tremolo cover is an eye-catching green and yellow checkerboard design.
Under the hood, things continue to be interesting. The pickups are a trio of Fender’s Noiseless Strat pickups borrowed from the Player Plus series, while the S1 switch on the bridge pickup tone control is hiding perhaps the most unique feature of the entire guitar – a built-in fuzz circuit.
Time to see if this People Pleaser can please one extremely un-hip guitar journalist…
Back of Fender Steve Lacy People Pleaser Stratocaster. Image: Adam Gasson
In Use
The most striking thing upon sliding the People Pleaser out of its 70s-style black hard case is that this is not a Strat for those looking for a lightweight instrument that barely feels like it’s there. The extra weight of that fuzz circuit – and the 9V battery nestled inside the vibrato cavity to power it – means that I feel the weight digging into my shoulder almost as soon as I strap it on.
If you’re used to playing a Les Paul or a Jazzmaster you won’t really notice once you get into the swing of things, but those who prize Fender guitars for being a bit kinder on the joints over the course of a long set might wanna take note.
The guitar’s chunky but comfortable ‘Deep C’ neck profile feels right at home in my hand but instantly there’s a problem – I cannot stop getting lost on this guitar. Now, I should couch this by saying that I’ve been playing guitar for over 20 years and roughly 75% of the guitars in my house as I write this are 25.5” scale Fenders.
Fender Steve Lacy People Pleaser Stratocaster fretboard. Image: Adam Gasson
Despite this, I find myself lost among 21 narrow tall frets without any kind of landmark to anchor me, because those white pearl side dots become effectively invisible against the maple ’board in any kind of direct sunlight. Your mileage may vary, but if I owned this guitar I’d be getting the Sharpie out quick sharp.
It’s a very comfortable playing guitar, however, if a little on the generic side. But that’s probably not a bad thing in the grand scheme of things – after all, this is meant to be a People Pleaser…
Plugging in and well, you might be shocked to hear that this sounds like a Strat. I’m not trying to be flippant saying that – 25 years after Fender first introduced the Noiseless pickup, people still tend to be wary about the tonal impact that stacking a pair of compacted single-coils atop each other actually does to the tone in practice.
Noiseless Strat pickups on Fender Steve Lacy People Pleaser Stratocaster. Image: Adam Gasson
If that’s you, rest assured – you get that same percussive snap on the bridge pickup, the funky rounder sound in the neck and the in-between sounds sound, well, in-betweeny – the guitar sounds every bit the classic Strat, just without the extraneous noise.
The party trick of the People Pleaser is, of course, when you hit that S1 switch on the hindmost tone control and kick in the on-board fuzz. There’s a significant jump in output as you’d perhaps expect, and instantly you’re awash in a cacophony of gnarly, chewy but controlled fuzz.
With the S1 engaged, the tone pot controls the output level of the fuzz, which aids with matching the clean and dirty sounds, but I hardly wanted to switch back once I engaged it – there’s just something about fuzz at the very front of your signal chain, and in this case it’s so at the front it’s even before your jack socket.
Fender Steve Lacy People Pleaser Stratocaster control knobs. Image: Adam Gasson
The fuzz plays very well with other dirt pedals and effects in general, and while it might have been more usable to have the S1 pot control the amount of fuzz as opposed to the output level, there’s something to be said for having a set-and-forget dirt option that is so unapologetically gnarly.
Some might be wondering if there’s much utility in being able to go from crystalline funky cleans to searing dirt at the touch of a button, but just check out Lacy’s Fousheé-featuring Sunshine to see exactly how effective that left-turn can be.
Ironically given its name, the People Pleaser won’t be for everyone – how many of us have been crying out for a Strat with a built-in fuzz circuit after all? But it’s also not a guitar exclusively for Lacy and his fans either. Okay, maybe you’ve never thought of a fuzz-loaded Strat before, but after picking this one up I found it very hard to put down – you might give it a try and find yourself in the same boat.
Fender Steve Lacy People Pleaser Stratocaster. Image: Adam Gasson
Get today’s deals on the Fender Steve Lacy People Pleaser Stratocaster

Check deal at Guitar Center
Check deal at Thomann

Like This, Try These
As this review makes abundantly clear, there aren’t many fuzz-loaded Strats out there for just over a grand, but if you want a Strat with something a little different going on, the Ed O’Brien EOB Sustainer Strat is worth a go. In similar vein, the Cort/Manson MBM2 Sustainiac bring’s Matt Bellamy’s favourite sustaining pickup to the party. Alternatively if you just want a Strat with some Noiseless pickups that won’t break the bank, Fender’s Player Plus Stratocaster has you sorted.
The post The Big Review: Fender Steve Lacy People Pleaser Stratocaster – the fuzz you never knew you needed appeared first on | All Things Guitar.

read more