Overall Score: 8/10 Songwriting: 8/10 Musicianship: 8/10 Production: 9/10 Pros: Full of catchy songs to make you excited about rock music again! Cons: Only that the album may be slightly front-loaded with the best tunes, although the rest will grow on you.
These days if you’re going to pursue a life in a rock ‘n’ roll band you have to be committed, brave, born for it, even. Let’s face it, the chances of stardom and enormous wealth are slim and you’re working in a medium that is almost an anachronism for young people – it’s like considering dry stone walling or trebuchet repair as a viable future career path. One act who seem to have been destined for this crazy business is L.A. five piece STARCRAWLER. Watch one of their videos or catch them live and it’s obvious that this is what they are meant to be doing, like there’s probably no other choice. You don’t get to be called Arrow De Wilde, the daughter of famous photographer Autumn De Wilde and work in a shoe shop. When she first met guitarist Henri Cash at college De Wilde said “You look cool, can you play the guitar?” He was carrying a tuba case at the time, but that didn’t matter – he was cool and he was going to play guitar in a rock band. He just was. And what a guitar player he turned out to be! He’s clearly influenced by Jack White, even looks a bit like him, but he’s less prone to histrionics, there is always a lot of melody in his solos, it sounds like he’s having fun, rather than trying to impress you. Anyway, they formed a band with his brother Bill [Cash] and bassist Tim Franco, and with new drummer Seth Carolina they present their third album She Said.
The record sleeve probably gives it all away – the band all dressed in tuxedos, hot pink shirts, hot pink text, lead singer De Wilde snarling at the camera with her long blonde hair, looking like Michael Monroe’s feral little sister. It’s band as glam rock gang – think the cover of ALICE COOPER’s Love It To Death or the NEW YORK DOLLS debut. It’s all very 80s L.A., and 70s New York, but the twist is that it sounds just as much 90s Seattle. Imagine if hair metal happened post-grunge. The sleaze, the dirty ROLLING STONES riffs, but minus the sexism and with a darker, but melodic heft. STARCRAWLER conjure a world where Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love wrote Welcome To The Jungle or One In A Million. The lyrics are full of runaways, strays and kohl-eyed waif waitresses, the usual L.A. diaspora. The country-tinged closer A Better Place could fit comfortably on G N’ R Lies (1988), De Wilde singing “I ain’t your buttercup, I’ve been lying since I got here…I wanna be a different person” – as the bright lights attract another soul looking for a better life, only to be crushed.
The album starts out in much more confrontational mood on the punky Roadkill, a retelling of ALICE COOPER’s Under My Wheels with a chorus so overpowering it cannot be shifted from your brain after just one play. The other singles, the title track and Stranded follow, a charm offensive and real statement of intent – this is a top drawer triple bill of rock ‘n’ roll heaven. You’ll be hard pushed to find a better bunch of commercial, skilfully written rock songs all year, although there is a danger that they overshadow the rest of the album. Give it a few more spins, though, and virtually every track is a winner. Thursday is virtually nothing but a chorus and is perhaps too eager to please for its own good, but elsewhere every tune has its own merits. On the disco-tinged funk of Jetblack the band stretch out as Franco gets his chance to shine, although Henri Cash‘s Earl Slick-esque guitar line also impresses. There is excellent pedal steel playing by Bill Cash, too, the band’s country influences showing up on A Better Place and the classy, tear-stained lament of Broken Angels, a song that starts like HOLE playing Motown and ends like FASTER PUSSYCAT covering GRAM PARSONS. Honestly, what more do you want? You want NIRVANA-goes-country? Then have the incredible Stranded. You want slinky, late night ennui with a hint of danger? Then here’s Midnight. You want gonzoid, DISTILLERS-style bubblegum punk? Then here’s Runaway.
In a jokey aside during an interview with NME back in the early days of the band De Wilde declared “Triple platinum or bust!”. Rock bands don’t tend to reach those types of sales figures anymore, but crucially She Said sounds like a triple platinum record. It makes you believe that rock’n’roll is important and that it might just save your life. That’s what we really want.
She Said releases on September 16 via Big Machine.
For more information on STARCRAWLER, like their official page on Facebook.