Released: 2004, Metal Blade
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Metal Blade has really gone out on a limb by signing this band. The label has been a stalwart of the death metal scene for almost twenty years, rarely wavering from the tried and true sound. Then along comes Starwood, a hard rock band who has more in common with the New York Dolls, Sunset Strip sleaze circa 1987 and newer bands like Brides of Destruction and The Darkness than Satan, corpses or pentagrams. It is a poorly kept secret that Lizzy Borden, he of the bright orange afro behind the band that took his name in the mid-80s, is also the frontman of Starwood. Starwood is nothing like his previous band and I suppose that is why they chose to leave his last name off the project. Still, drummer Joey Scott has been with Borden since the late 80s (and is also his brother), bassist Marten Andersson joined the band in 1992 and guitarist Joe Steals played with Lizzy in a band called Diamond Dogs in the mid-90s. This is essentially a revamped Lizzy Borden lineup, though there is no mention of it anywhere on the band’s website or in the bio supplied by Metal Blade. Named after a 70s Hollywood rock club, Starwood’s music is extremely catchy with hook-filled verses, a few sing-along choruses and guitar solos all over the place. The image change and more upbeat, commercially-viable songs are certainly a welcome sound to the bloody theatrics of old, too.
“Subculture” is full of the same punk attitude exhibited by the Sex Pistols, while the shouted gang chorus is instantly memorable. “Won’t Back Down” borrows the riff from KISS’ “Shout It Out Loud” at the 2:35 mark, while “What’s Your Damage?” is chock full of Cheap Trick pop choruses. Despite the dumb title, “All My Girlfriends Have Boyfriends” is the catchiest track on the CD and the chorus is absolutely infectious. The title track is dreadful as Lizzy takes on the same falsetto vocals of the guy from The Darkness at points which instantly reduces the track to total worthlessness. “You’re So Real” and “Bad Machine” are built around a dirty riff that would make Slash himself proud. The guitars are the real draw here as Lizzy was never a good vocalist. Joe Steals and Lizzy craft the songs around some hot licks and messy riffs that personified mid-70s hard rock. The influences are obvious to anyone who grew up listening to hard rock and appreciate the music of T-Rex, Cheap Trick, L.A. Guns, Guns ‘n Roses, etc.
While Starwood is hardly redefining anything, they do a decent job of adding a modern touch to the music that peppered the radios of Gen-Xers. I love Cheap Trick to this day and my devotion to KISS is no secret, either, so Starwood should also have a soft spot in my heart. This CD is great music for cruising in your convertible and headbanging down the highway, while playing the hell out of your air guitar. Good on Metal Balde for taking a chance with these guys, because for good old-fashioned rock and rapin’ roll, look no further than Starwood.
KILLER KUTS: “Subculture,” “What’s Your Damage?,” “All My Girlfriends Have Boyfriends,” “Bad Machine”