Review by Rob Broom for MPM
Stunning, pounding and imaginative new album from the Atlanta quartet.
Formed back around 2013 by guitarist and vocalist Kimi Shelter and bassist Aaron Lecesne, Starbenders have so far released a couple of albums (including Love Potions) and a bunch of singles.
I hadn’t heard any of those at the time of review (although that has subsequently changed!), but a quick look on Facebook had me intrigued so I was looking forward to giving this album a listen. As is often the case in my reviews I have used some comparisons to help others who have not heard the band before, but Starbenders really have their own sound.
‘Take Back The Night’ opens with ‘The Game’. This kicks off with some Rush meets Greta Van Fleet type vocals and guitar before turning into a chest thumping, stadium sound filling anthem. Guitars from Kriss Tokaji and Kimi Shelter blend together while the bass of Aaron Lecesne and drums of Emily Moon provide the back beat to get the ground shaking!
After the bombastic opening, we get a Rammstein sounding wave of synths as vocalist Kimi Shelter tells us all about ‘Sex’. This is a no holds barred guitar and synth pounding delight. Lyrically it is leaving nothing at the door or to the imagination!
Before you get time to get your breath back we are then hit with the glam/sleaze/punk of ‘Body Talk’, making full use of a dirty guitar riff and solo this one just struts along like it owns the place and you are in no situation to argue. No mercy, just play it loud!
After that opening 1-2-3 salvo, fourth cut ‘We’re Not OK’ drops the pace and takes us on a post goth pop journey with some interesting lyrics and sounds. It is catchy and clever, with well structured musicianship, all of which is a feature of the entire album.
Recent band publicity describe ‘Cherry Wine’ as follows – ‘Alright, gather ’round, you seekers of sonic thrill. ‘Cherry Wine’ ain’t just a song, it’s a portal. Imagine you’re on a midnight drive, wind in your hair, the city lights painting neon streaks across the night canvas. This tune? It’s the soundtrack to the trip – a vintage tale, woven with threads of memories and whispered secrets.‘
The song certainly delivers and to my ears, it is a rock pop flavoured Fleetwood Mac sounding tune, I’ve not driven at night listening to it yet, but it is inevitable that I eventually will, as the whole album has been on repeat play for a whole week and this tune is definitely catchy!
‘Seven White Horses’ on the other hand, whilst still retaining some of the Fleetwood Mac feel takes you to a completely different place. Lyrically it is dark, moody and compulsive listening. A song that starts with ‘love like heroin, buzz like hell, I got a thing for angels that fell‘ certainly sets the scene! Again theres also the great musicianship to paint the picture.
Track seven, ‘The End Is Near’ picks up the pace with a modern sounding beat that is layered and textured. There is some thumping guitar play and have no doubt, live this song should get you moving!
The intensity continues with ‘Blood Moon’. At times during this song you will be head banging with the best of them. The track has some absolutely frantic moments of rocking. In places on this track (and elsewhere on the album, particularly ‘Sex’) I am reminded of the much missed (by me anyway)! Rockbitch and their Motor City Bimbo album.
The pace slows again on track nine as ‘If You Need It’ drifts between rock pop and goth with a haunting melody. There is a desperation at times in the lament of the chorus that is quite stunning.
Tenth track ‘Marianne’ comes straight out of the Ghost rock pop playbook. Choppy guitars and a song so tuneful in places it could be Abba in disguise as a rock band. It is really excellent and a joy to listen to! You can be forgiven for repeat playing this one!
Whilst most of the songs on this album are written by Kimi Shelter, ‘Poison’ is a cover of the Alice Cooper hit. The lyrical content means it fits right in with the rest of the album and so I can understand why the band included it. Musically, it doesn’t really add anything to the original, but as there is probably a whole generation not familiar with the song that’s not really an issue. The sound is perhaps slightly more ‘pop’ than the original, but Kimi Shelters vocal delivery manages to give a despairing twist to the song so it holds its own alongside the other material. Would be nice for the band to do an acoustic version as I think with their sonic delivery that could be really stunning – fingers crossed!
Last but one track on the album ‘Midnight’ is another skilfully delivered piece of rock/punk/pop that happily gallops along with the entire band meshing together, while Kimi delivers some great vocals. This could be a real piece of class live. I will find out on their October UK tour!
Album closer ‘Say You Will’ starts with some more of that clever pop sound before kicking into a full on guitar/bass/drums symphony of sound and then dropping back into the pop sound and then back to the symphony of sound. Really mesmerising, leaving you breathless and wanting more.
What I can conclude about ‘Take Back The Night’ is that it is a brilliant, powerful, clever album that musically does not sit in one dimension. Although my review (which probably doesn’t do the album full justice) may suggest that Starbenders have a wide range of sounds with no identity, that is not the case, the entire album blends together into one coherent majestic whole.
What really impressed me is how creative the band have been with the vibrant sound and lyrically the album is dark, sleazy and sexy. It really is a joy to listen to and kicks some serious backside!
Perhaps even more remarkably it is yet another contender for my ‘album of the year’, joining an already crowded field. This gives me hope, there is a whole new wave of bands and solo artists coming through to seriously challenge the old guard with some excellent music, whilst some of that old guard – such as the Damned and Uriah Heep (who both released albums earlier this year) – are rising up to the challenge and not just sitting around relying on past glories.
Rock and Roll is definitely not dead, it is alive and kicking, and music from the likes of Starbenders is certainly taking back the night, go buy it now and rock into the darkness.