Monday, January 15, 2007
Starry, Starry Desperation...
The Starlite Desperation clambered through Detroit in October and I missed it. Shows them for playing the Belmont, as I was not the only soul who was absent from the performance they would rather be attending.
But I’ve been lucky to rub my paws all over a CD they were hawking at the show. “Don’t Do Time” is the initial release on what appears to be the band’s own Double Zombie imprint.
I had a long and storied love of this band that was initially ready to be spilled all over here. But I’ll save that for when people actually care about my life. I’d rather just talk about the songs on this CD.
Leaning mostly towards new jams, I’m curious as to whether these are completed versions ready for the supposed Capitol album and just pressed as a stop-gap tour scratch generator or if there’s (believably) problems on Cap’s end.
Track by track? Why the hell not…
1. We Don’t Do Time
Prototypical Starry D’s. Dante’s guitar stings all over this thing. Jeff’s drums with his usual hi-hattiness. “We fix cake in the dried up lake where the piranhas go” is essential Adrian lyricism…most likely non-sense, but oblique enough for possible probing and (gasp!) meaning.
2. My Violin
Is this the GarageBand Secret Agent Guitar Riff #3? This killer gives hope. I always thought Starlite got left out of NME rock resurgence and recognition. This song makes me believe they can’t be counted out just yet.
3. Born to Be Dizzy
Originally featured on “Violate a Sunday” and the most lackluster track from that EP. Bass line unconsciously playing a mirror part to Zep’s “How Many More Times” in a not-foxy way. Boo.
4. I Lost My Bees
Most people don’t know, but included in GSL’s 2005 singles club series. More spooky aura filled goodness. “All the chickens are sleeping with the trees” shows Dante can rock a tricky animal lyric without coming off as idyllic Joanna Newsom fanciful lands of glorious colors and unicorns and crap like that (which I’m not wholly against…I love Joanna, but sometimes, you know, you ain’t in the mood). He speaks of creepy, mentally disturbed animals with possible deformities. We like.
5. New Year’s Bathroom Magic
Essential. I fell in love with this song when I first heard it. A suite really…when the power-chord Ramones-ish guitar kicks at the 1:53 mark I am delivered to a different state of mind. “Happy New Year and joy to the world, magic in the bathroom imagine you’re a girl” and “Oh true, what does that mean when you’re Porcelain concubine, porcelain queen” are two of my favorite lyrics of the past 50 years. Everyone should hear this song.
6. Mona Lisa Snake
From “Go Kill Mice” and easily the standout track. Dante successfully pulls out his Asheton guns without falling on mimicry or imitation. Added to the saxaphone howling and this is the greatest song that wasn’t included on “Funhouse” but could’ve been. And the title is badass. Almost as essential as “New Year’s Bathroom Magic”.
7. Crenshaw Creature
Crenshaw obviously the Los Angeles street name. Maybe this is about a crackhead? First of the songs credited as “Recorded by Dante Adrian at Phantom Power” which I’m deducing is home laptop recordings. Don’t take that for fact, but I can’t imagine any “studio” getting sounds like those on the Phantom Power tracks. I mean that as a compliment.
Starlite is usually on the mark when the guitar and bass are doing slightly different movements and the chorus on this song is the perfect example of that. As someone who has no understanding of notes or chords or progressions, I can only say it’s something I get the vibe on the Victims’ “Television Addict” and “Perth is a Culture Shock”. I would love a proper, musicological explanation of whatever this phenomenon is one day.
8. Sally From the Valley
A reference to Slick Rick’s “Lodi Dodi”? Possibly. The only acoustic guitar I can think of on any Starlite tracks, slightly reminiscent of “Hot for Preacher”.
9. Escape from Witch Canyon
They were doing this on the 2004 West Coast swing where they opened for the Dirtbombs. Bass guitar doing high-to-low divebombs is something I personally attach with Kevin Peyok, but is accomplished here without fault. “And everyone knows that witches burn” over a perfectly actualized/realized/completed/resolved guitar formation. I wish I could explain it better. The feeling where they hit an unexpected chord that fits so well that it becomes expected…don’t the German’s have a word for it?
10. The Monk
Phoned in. An unimaginative title should be all you need to discern whether any effort was put into a song. And it works for us here.
11. A Common Cold
Another favorite from the ’04 tour. Doubled vocals are wonderfully confusing and this is another song with that over-reverbed, tremeloed Halloween sound effects record guitar vibe. I keep thinking he’s singing “green manilishi” but have to reassure myself that’s not the case.
12. It Rhymes with ‘Bitch’
B-side to the first single. I searched for ages for this 7” on Catchpenny. Recorded in 1996, this is fuzz punk that makes me want to type the words “Joy Division” that were possibly mentioned in label ad-copy for this single. I, in good-conscience, offered a white vinyl “Lafayette Blues” single in trade to anyone who could offer this in return. No one ever took me up on it (some 30,000 members of the White Stripes email list the main offenders). They were smart. I wouldn’t trade this either.
13. Strange World
Another Phantom Power phone-in. A sketch really, could develop into something more substantial, but in this state, negligible. Need I again point to the lack in a creative title?
14. Clean Slate Club
Oh the cunning word play. Treads the same ground as “The Gold Rush” from “Go Kill Mice” does. Phantom Power not-so-bad.
15. The Life
There are some tempos that just obliterate my entire being in a bad way. As soon as this songs begins, I want to skip over it. Slow and plodding with serpentine guitar wrapped all around it, if it were sped up or slowed down significantly I would dig it. Really fast punker or suuuuuuper-slow swamp dirge is the way, all this mid-tempo bullsnark just grinds my gears.
16. Our Product
A-side of the first single. Starlite the way I’ve seen them live has never sounded like this and I regret it. More overblown fuzz urgency with a tricky delayed change on the guitar transitions during the verse that I was amazed to have taught myself. Searing screech solo. A genuine gem to finally have on CD. I’ve spent some time with this song and I want to spend more with it. Probably the record in my collection most-prized by me and least-prized by anyone else in the human race. That’s a good idea for a article…record in your collection that is indespensible to you, but would be worthless to most anyone else. Anyone, please post your answers in the comments section.
17. Out of Town
Downbeat muck. Really should’ve ended the CD with “Our Product”. Another Phantom Power phiasco. Oh well…it is only a CD-r. I can’t imagine you’ll be able to find these songs anywhere. Maybe I’ll figure out how to post Mp3’s on here soon. Make me look like I’m not entirely out of my gourd.
So whether this is preparation for the long-rumored new disc on Capitol or evidence of something a little less rosy, this ain’t bad. Would’ve been cooler if it was a CD-r or handmade as an unspoken disclaimer for the demo-ish nature of some of the songs. And I don't mean to unfairly bag on the Phantom Power tracks, but they just retread familiar SD ground with out shedding any new light or ideas, certainly the uninitiated will not share my distaste and my complaints are probably only agreed with by Mike Clark and Dave Buick. Either way, any Starlite is better than no Starlite. Get this if you can. If you need it, I may hook you honkeys up. Just ask.