This article was originally published on Mxdwn
It’s not easy to make it as a band today, especially for those committed to bringing the ruckus. Aside from classic rock acts, the usual industry sweethearts and reunion sensations, a guitar-focused group that refuses to inch closer to the synth with each release will most likely struggle to bag a spot in the commercial space for long. This is precisely why most artists who start out raw get overcooked soon after they’re “discovered.”
Starcrawler, however, is sticking to the original plan.
Though the LA-based group’s sound has traveled quite a distance since their self-titled debut five years ago, their genotype remains free from mutation. Track the band’s growth up to their recently released third album, She Said, and you have yourself a masterclass on how to polish material gradually and unnoticeably while keeping it rough around the edges.
The new record is loud, soft, fast and slow yet guided by the spirit of punk. This back-and-forth between bouncy, upbeat tunes and the (relatively) softer stuff is held together by a tightness that leaves no room for air bubbles. The easiest way to do that is by limiting LPs to approximately half an hour of music, which is something Starcrawler failed to do on their previous album, consequently reducing its replay value. She Said, thankfully, wraps up right at the thirty-minute mark — a huge relief from the exhaustingly self-indulgent rock albums that show how oblivious artists are to the attention span of the average listener. Contrarily, a tastefully timed album, such as the one at hand, demonstrates how the musicians were focused enough to arrange their best cuts within a reasonable frame.
These ten songs demand a revisit, some before you’ve even made it through your first listen. It won’t take long before you notice the similarities between the opening track and Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl,” which is so obvious that it comes off more as a tribute rather than a rip-off. This pattern of vocal delivery, no matter how common or played out it may be, is always welcome in the rock/punk domain. It prepares listeners for what’s to come, giving them a taste of one extreme of the changing pace that makes the record so captivating. Only two songs later, though, they bring down the speed with “Stranded,” which has all the qualities of a song that’ll keep you coming back to the album: sultry vocals over a beefy bass line that explodes into a thick chorus is a formula every rock act should be familiar with because it always works. Like this, the tracklist tosses around different twists on rock—some ballad-like, some piercing guitar joints, one even stripped down to an acoustic set—but it never loses its oomph.
A lot of the songs on this record will remind you of the best side of late 2000s alt-rock, yet it doesn’t feel nostalgic. That’s the fascinating thing about music with even a tiny bit of punk in it, be it hip-hop or folk, is that it never feels old. That sped-up, in-your-face attitude will always nudge listeners forward. Add to it the fuck-you fempunk quirkiness of Starcrawler’s lead vocalist, one Ms. Arrow de Wilde, and you’re looking into the future.
The overall sound of She Said is far too complete for it to be categorized as a typical punk record, but if you listen to their first full-length release, you’ll understand that the driving force behind the band’s energy is inherently punk. The sophomore release began pulling in more traditional elements of a fuller rock sound and they’ve now taken another step in that direction.
Stylistically, there’s a spectrum, but in terms of ranking the records, they’re all tied because Starcrawler has brought forth the same quality of music each time while steadily evolving. Three albums in and they already have a solid track record. Half a decade after their debut, the band is still high-energy, vibrant and stimulating, but now they also know how and when to tone it down and get you in touch with your tender side.
Mind you, only artists with the highest sensibilities can pull that off.