All that glitters . . .
Silver Star & the Jukebox Angels get it on
by Brett Milano
Ten years ago at this time, a lot of Boston's better bands were plugging into
the impassioned garage-rock sound of the '60s. So it makes sense that a good
number of local bands nowadays are taking equal inspiration from the '70s. Of
course, the '70s were a pretty diverse decade, and the bands who most often get
emulated -- Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Cheap Trick -- are the ones who never went too
far out of style in the first place. You may be wondering, though, why hardly
anybody's tried to revive glitter rock, which gave the early '70s some of its
flashiest, trashiest, most fun moments. Even modern-day glitter boys like the
London Suede never get beyond really obvious role models like David Bowie and,
uh, David Bowie.
That's where Silver Star & the Jukebox Angels come in. The band
sound as if they'd just materialized from a silver-sparkled time warp, with
obvious influences including Sweet, Slade, and T. Rex (lead singer Rob Small
has that Marc Bolan vocal quaver down pat). Even the production harks back to
the heyday of UK glitter, complete with that tribal drum sound familiar from
the old Gary Glitter records. "Star Baby" may share its title with a
glitter-era hit by the Guess Who, but the song has a loping beat, heavily miked
acoustic guitar, and lusty lyrics that bring some of the T. Rex ballads
(especially "Hot Love") to mind, with a bit of the Small Faces' "Itchycoo Park"
The payoff, though, is that all three of the songs on the tape are good enough
to have come out back then, with the quality of the writing lifting the band
into the realm of serious fun. "Tambourine Girl" pays tribute to those unsung
heroes of rock and roll, with a bubblegum hook that doesn't quit -- what with
the handclaps, the oh-yeahs, and the lyrical come-ons, the song's a perfect
antidote to whatever too-serious rock you've heard lately. The one live track
-- "Tiger Beat," recorded last year at Mama Kin -- has to make do without the
overdubbed handclaps, but the song's opening couplet ("Whoa girl, don't you
leave alone/"Cause I know you're really stoned") makes up for that. See them
live and you'd be able to watch the band's two heavily glammed back-up singers
strut their stuff, but it's clear enough from this tape that a wild time was
had by all. Their next gig is set for May 24 at the Middle East.
Together since early last year, with the two Jukebox Angels recently added to
the act, Silver Star have spent more time in the studio lately: producer Dave
Frangione, who did preproduction work on the last Aerosmith album, liked their
demo and will be the producer of their forthcoming CD. "I call our music
bubblegum space pop," Small says. "We have kind of a '50s sensibility, but we
put that into a 21st-century vernacular. Melodies are the most important thing,
so we want to take them and give them a more spacy approach."
All of which means he wants to keep the band out of the '70s-glitter
pigeonhole, but he admits to loving that kind of music. "It's funny, because
when people hear our influences they think we're older than we are, but I'm 28
and I'm the oldest in the band. I'm pretty heavily influenced by that Phil
Spector wall of sound, and even by a band like Chic -- their melodies were
great. And obviously we love T. Rex, but I think we're more modern than
But do a band even have to be modern to be good?
"Not to me."
RUNNERS-UPYou can't accuse the Sugar Twins of not getting to
the point. On the sweetly surf-rocking "For You," singers Holly and Honey Sugar
harmonize for a few lines about how all-fired wonderful the guy they're singing
about is, then make this modest proposal: "All I wanna do is sing and dance/All
I want is a new romance/All I want is to take off my pants, for
yooouuuu . . . " (The other choruses are even less
discreet). The Sugar Twins have a whole lotta love to give to the world at
large. Their playfully seductive personality harks back to the glory days of
bachelor-pad pop, though the sound on the tape also recalls the glory days of
the B-52's. The whole thing would fall flat if there were too much art-school
irony, but the Twins' love-kitten concept is pulled off with wit, style and, of
The Doom Buggies are the band who double as the Throbbing Lobsters,
doing covers of such vintage Boston bands as the Bags, Classic Ruins, and the
Neighborhoods. It wouldn't be a disservice to say that the band's own demo tape
is the same basic idea, but with original songs. It's a classic-model Boston
rock thang with a tight three-piece sound that especially brings
punk-with-tunes bands like the early Neighborhoods, Big Dipper, and the Prime
Movers (minus keyboard) to mind.
The three songs here could easily have appeared locally a decade ago, maybe
even on the Throbbing Lobster label. Of course the above-mentioned bands all
succeeded mainly on their songwriting, and the Buggies are no slouches in that
area either. The group sport two lead singers, and the songs include "Think
Big" -- whose lyrics have an offbeat Big Dipper-esque humor -- and "Mystified,"
a pop number whose title is stretched out to seven syllables (as in "I feel
mystifi-yi-yi-yi-ed"). The closer, "Rocket," is so catchy that they've gotten
away with sneaking it into Throbbing Lobsters sets and passing it off as a
long-lost local classic.
The Pilfers are the first local ska band in recent memory whose name
isn't a pun. And the opening track of their album-length tape Rude by
Association presents an interesting question. The tune, "Jolly Jolly
Jolly," is a heartfelt ode to the pleasures of ganja. But if they've really
smoked so much of the stuff, how are they able to play this fast? In any case,
the tape's a solid effort that combines a trombone-driven roots sound with a
poppier, harmony-vocal approach that brings the English Beat to mind. The
instrumental sound is fronted alternately by the horn and by an assertive lead
guitar, with dub echoes often thrown into the mix as well. The result manages
to cross punk, pop, and ska without sounding much like the Bosstones.
Like the Cherry 2000 tape that won our previous Demo Derby, Twitcher's
three-song tape, which boasts the wonderfully offensive title Leg of Lamb of
God, slants its punk/pop/rock formula a bit differently on each track.
"Hide" is the big, angry punk outburst, though singer Sandra Malak shows a bit
more subtlety than you might expect. "Frantic" is a guitar-driven instrumental
that lives up to its title; "Time in Pain" introduces a midtempo, psychedelicky
approach. Good mix of urgency and technical chops on this one.
There may be a few too many song ideas floating around in Slept's
12-song tape Ick Tank, but most of them are good. Like XTC in the early
days, this band run through song structures like bulls in the proverbial china
shop, cramming them full of information and sticking in multiple bridges and
time changes. Not everyone can be XTC, however; there are times when Slept
would do well to simplify just a bit (or at least to beef up the production,
which is a little thin). Still, these folks write fine hooks and have a tight
three-piece sound, and the right ingredients for big-time pop are here.
Jack Frosting's latest effort is a real oddity: why would a band known
for their songwriting circulate a demo whose one track is a cover? And why
would that cover be "Walking in the Rain," the Flash & the Pan song that
was a hit in 1979 and now smacks of new-wave kitsch? The use of a live rhythm
section gives the song a tense groove that the original didn't have (maybe Jack
Frosting just couldn't afford the drum machine), but otherwise their version is
surprisingly faithful, complete with megaphoned vocal and cheesy synth lick.
They deserve a mention for even bothering: the song's just weird enough to be
worth a revival, and at least they covered it for real instead of trashing it.
But we also hope they change directions again before they start doing
Blancmange and Ebn-Ozn covers.
COMING UPTonight (Thursday), local psychedelic pop up-and-comers the
Sky Heroes hit Mama Kin . . . Friday, Laurie Sargent comes to
Bill's on the heels of her new Warner Bros. CD, and Railroad Jerk tumble into
T.T. the Bear's from NYC. Local soul-bluesers Bellvue Cadillac play Johnny
D's . . . On Saturday, T.T.'s hosts a reunion of Boston's '80s
garage-rock Dead End Kids the Dogmatics, and loud-and-dirty Thee Headcoats
rumble the Middle East upstairs . . . On Sunday, skirt-wearing
blues hotshot Chris Duarte hits the House of Blues (sorry, Chris, but Howlin'
Wolf would not understand) . . . On Wednesday, the
Descendents descend on Lupo's in Providence. And there are still a few tickets
available for Bill Morrissey's Brattle Theatre show next Friday, May 16.