Ever read Brett Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero? that tale of dangerously bored rich L.A kids numbing themselves as fast as their father’s gold Amex would allow, living for sick kicks isolated from the consequences by money, stuffing up the cracks narcotically to the point where basic morality and humanity just withered, dried up and blew away in the wind. Those that survived, grew up and had kids of their own that formed a kick-ass rock band.
That’s what Starcrawler sounds like to me.
My brand new favourite band from 2018, Starcrawler tick all my boxes like only an eight-armed box-ticking tsunami of bright righteous noise ever could. It really isn’t an original thought but cross the Runaways, Sabotage-era Sabbath and, umm, probably someone else way cool and you’re on the starting grid for Starcrawler, and ready to rock. It’s as utterly disposable and as utterly indispensable as you can get.
Starcrawler is a 28-minute blast of, mostly, sugar-coated riffage and ‘tude, which is fine lots of bands have angled for that, but where Starcrawler triumph is that they back it up where it counts with some serious speed and a surprising amount of muscle. The songs are good and the playing is really spiky, Henri Cash – aged 16 at the time of recording*, is an absolute monster! He needs to be because lead singer Arrow de Wilde, is a huge personality and without some real weight behind the music it would all be a bit much.
But don’t take my word for it, crank this – I love the video (directed by Arrow’s photographer mum) but it is pretty much the softest track on Starcrawler:
The LP kicks off with the excellent propulsive ‘Train’ which comes hurtling down the tracks like one of those, oh you know, what do they call those big metal runs-on-rails things …? I love every second of its 1:22. Austin Smith’s drumming is spot on and Cash’s guitar sound is just freaking perfect, dirty and loud. It is just a great opening statement, especially as it hurtles off the tracks straight into the rocking mess of ‘Love’s Gone Again’, via Timothy Franco’s bassline. And yet again Cash’s guitaring makes me howl, the way it cuts through all that fuzz, wow.
Starcrawler as a band just sound on it – over-caffeinated**, no hooks are left unhooked, no riffs left unriffed. Every track is a highlight for me, the deadpanned ‘Different Angles’ rocks like a bastard for all of 1:58, before leaning into the sickly, faux menacing ‘Chicken Woman’.
Perhaps simultaneously the best and most disposable moment on Starcrawler is the deliriously teenaged^ ‘Pussy Tower’. This is pure sleaze pop rock, served up with a great guitar tone and some rather cheeky vocals and the sort of lyrics that were hilarious to write in your mates’ exercise book during a dull lesson but look a bit silly the next day; ‘Head, I want it every day / Oh head, it never fails to pay’. The mucky little tykes!
Starcrawler chuck in a chord sequence, or two, looted from older sisters’ Nirvana records on ‘Full of Pride’ and go for some genuine numbness on ‘Tears’, which today is my favourite song on the LP^^, which I interpret as a plea for escape from emptiness. This all builds nicely to a well-paced bit of spiralling epicness on ‘What I Want’, where drummer Austin Smith gets to do a little show stealing of his own.
Plus I will shoehorn in a stack-heeled boot full of praise for Ryan Adams’ production skills here too. The sound is clear, warm and dynamic – well played fella.
Starcrawler is definitely no novelty teenage act, it is a really well-crafted pink fizzy wizzy rock explosion. If you could taste these tunes they would be pure synthetic strawberry, each and every one of them – not a single vitamin to be had; and all the better for it too.
Far more than zero.
PS: Treat yourself to this LP it is a real blast from start to finish:
*young even for this band of teenagers.
**I do love me a good short LP and Starcrawler definitely is one. They haven’t got the time to mess around, 10 songs in 27 minutes will do me just right.
^as in over-excited, immature and slightly embarrassing.
^^as opposed to my other favourite three tracks.