She reached over and squeezed on my rocks
I lost it all in the popcorn box! (Cool One)
By God this blade is razor sharp
Do you know how to play a harp? (Subway Terror)
Starz Violation, they just don’t make ’em like that anymore, eh? we have lost so much as a culture in the last 31 years.
I like coming into a band’s discography via a greatest hits collection, in this case Brightest Starz, as you get the fun of filling in the gaps by buying the individual albums – or at least that’s we old fuddy-duddies did before the internet came along and spoiled everything*. Which is where Violation came in, as I work my way through Starz’ discography.
I promise I won’t blather on to you for a third time about how Starz should have/could have been massive in the late 70’s but just crapped out and missed riding the hard rock wave to stardom and riches but were a more talented bunch than many who did. Promise. But they should have been. They had all the usual essentials – the instrumental chops, the management, the songs, the producer, a great logo and a luxuriantly moustachioed drummer**.
Violation opens with the chirpy pop rock of ‘Cherry Baby’, which is the sort of sugar-coated rockfectionery I always imagine myself listening to in a convertible somewhere scenic with a hot chick^. But look beneath the chiming guitar hooks and you find a bit more of a gritty story, which is a definite Starz trick, the singer is pining for his girl whilst he’s doing time for an unspecified offence; I’m going with either littering, or pre-meditated homicide. Then Starz change it up into fifth for ‘Rock Six Times’ a real belter of a tune which recasts the plot of ‘2112’ but uses a copy of ‘Walk This Way’^^ as the catalyst to throw off the moral shackles of a dystopian future. It rocks.
We are back on the dessert trolley for the excellent ‘Sing It, Shout It’, a Sean Delaney co-write. This tune just does everything I want a happy-go-lucky pop rocker to. Which runs us smack into ‘Violation’, another rocking tale of a dystopian future where rock is banned^*. The amount this tune rocks is in direct correlation with its’ inherent daftness. Richie Ranno and Brenden Harkin were a top-notch guitar team and the rhythm section of Peter Sweval and Joe X. Dubé hit everything just right.
Then Violation gets really great. To steal a plagiarise a paragraph from my favourite writer: genuinely creepy tale of a murderer/mugger/sex attacker doing his rounds – Michael Smith really inhabits his character on this one, after a scary line, or two about nurses we get the immortal couplet, ‘By God this blade is razor sharp /Do you know how to play a harp?’, followed by (thank you Jack Douglas) a harp. Top-notch sicko rock.
‘All Night Long’ is just the kind of slack-jawed post-lude ode to loose women and frenzied coupling, that rockers banged out in their sleep back in ’77. It’s perfectly okay but there is something a bit reptilian about it to my jaded old ears, Michael Lee Smith sounds like he can barely keep it together long enough to sing this one, let alone seal the deal later. The popcorn-tastic ‘Cool One’ is a real rock and roll hoot and the best song about groping in the cinema since AC/DC’s ‘Can I Sit Next To You Girl?’, needless to say there’s not an unsticky seat left in the house. Starz ride just the right line here between cheeky and crude.
I confess to being a bit baffled by the last two tracks on Violation. ‘S.T.E.A.D.Y’ is a strange tale of psychotropic manipulation and union politics. I kid you not, it is both sinister and deeply silly, some great cowbell part way through too. One of my very fave song titles ever, ‘Is That A Street Light Or The Moon’ is just plain odd, Smith sings in a bizarre falsetto, sounding like an asthmatic person of indeterminate gender over a rather good (if a little wasted in this context) orchestral string arrangement. Bizarre.
Like I said, nobody makes LPs like Violation any more. Which I think is a real shame, I like that lets-give-it-all-a-go unselfconsciousness that rock had back then, there is a faith in simple talent that we seem to have mostly lost under a screed of image and whatnot. So all hail the sugary, sweaty, sinister charms of Starz! God bless them all and particularly Joe X. Dubé their luxuriantly moustachioed drummer.
*like enabling dumbass Welsh dudes to peddle their opinions about everything all the time like they were an unholy cross between Carl Sagan and an encyclo-motherflipping-pedia.
**as no lesser authority than God wrote us in 1 Corinthians 13:13 –
And now these three remain: faith, hope and a luxuriantly moustachioed drummer. But the greatest of these is a luxuriantly moustachioed drummer.
^think Debbie Dunham from American Graffiti.
^^another Jack Douglas production of course.
^*don’t worry bands from the 1970’s rock is one of the essentials we still have left, now we have dispensed with all the fripperies like economic stability, basic human rights and environmental sustainability.