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Starcrawler - Starcrawler (Album Review)

Thursday, 01 February 2018 Written by Laura Johnson

Photo: Autumn de Wilde

It’s difficult to create something new. Every week the musical landscape changes, with more new releases and riffs dropped into an already vast industry that is only getting bigger. The question remains: how can you be heard above the noise?

Some opt for gimmicks, while others concern themselves with honing their live show into a seemingly-chaotic-but-in-fact-well-oiled machine so that their reputation precedes them. In that bracket you’ll find Los Angeles rockers Starcrawler, whose onstage antics have already landed them on the front page of LA Weekly.

They’ve found fans in Elton John, Dave Grohl and Gerard Way, and their self-titled debut was recorded to tape with Ryan Adams at his Pax-Am studio. It’s an apt choice considering the band’s nostalgic sound.

Their vocalist, Arrow de Wilde, isn’t old enough to buy a beer in their hometown, but it’s clear from the opening bars of the ‘70s rock-influenced Train that Starcrawler are well versed in that era’s musical heritage. Throughout the record they lean heavily on some of its best proponents, including the Cramps and the Stooges.

Distorted guitars wail, but there is also an inherent musicality to their melodies that allows de Wilde to really flourish. On Chicken Woman she fills the space with unnervingly understated, silky vocals, while she screeches her way through Pussy Tower. I Love LA and Full of Pride find her comfortable in the lower registers, though on many songs she ricochets wildly between all three.

As a contrast to their live reputation, this record finds Starcrawler somewhat restrained. Often, they leave us longing for the unbridled passion we’ve heard so much about, even though their efforts are enough to refresh a bygone sound. In doing so they avoid the pitfalls usually associated with derivative bands, but whether they will manage to dodge them on future releases remains to be seen.

The penultimate track, Tears, brings the record’s momentum to a grinding halt, but it also hints that they might have a few new moves up their sleeve.  Wilde’s voice is less polished and more vulnerable than before, offering a welcome insight into potential that remains unexplored elsewhere. They might just have it in them to veer off the well-worn path they’re currently following.

“I don’t want to drink what the cool kids drink, I don’t want to sleep where the cool kids sleep, I don’t want to be anything but me, ‘cos I will do what I want,” runs the  opening line of What I Want, the last track on Starcrawler’s debut album. It sums them up. They are a band concerned only with themselves and operating away from any discernible scene. They wear their influences, however passé, proudly on their sleeves.

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