Last time the Star Spangles landed - back in 2003 (fuck, was it really that long ago?) - we all instantly fell head over heels in love with their NY ‘street appeal’, snappy threads & sneering melodies - & duly thanked our lucky stars that their dads earned considerably less per anum than the Strokes’ fathers. We bought in: hook line & sinker! - Tommy’s incendiary guitar slinging, Ian’s moody Nick Cave as Garage Punker strop, the bubblegum classics, the cool city manner – eventually taking Rat Scabies along to see them at their Virgin Megastore LP Launch (where, incidentally, we encountered a geeked-up Robin Hitchcock queuing patiently behind much younger Spangles fans - in line to get his copy of “Bazooka!” signed by the group!).
Since those heady days, the Global General Public (GGP) have spectacularly failed to elevate the Star Spangles to superstardom on just about every level imaginable. What they may have lacked in instant success, however, the Spangles have more than made up for in extra-curricular activities: rumours of Tommy & Ian’s habits/issues have allegedly tested the resolve of those around them to the point of distraction.
There have been casualties along the way: it’s not exactly hot news to discover that Joey Valentino (drums) & Nick Price (bass) have both departed – in fact even Nick’s replacement – Pud Reznifoff (possible made- up-name-alert!) – has since vacated – but it is bloody good to have them back!
The new line-up:
Tommy Volume – Lead Guitar/vocals Ian Wilson – Lead Vocals/guitar Todd Martin – Bass/vocals Chris Orlando – Drums Rich Stim – Saxophone Ian McLagan – Piano/Hammond Organ
“Dirty Bomb” is the title of the second Star Spangles full-length outing – due to drop on May 1st on Tic Records. Recorded, mixed & produced by Jason Carmer, the record was recorded in San Francisco & mastered in NYC late last year. The album was supposed to have come out on Capital Records some time ago - but they either unceremoniously dropped the Spangles - or went out of business – one or the other (you do the math!). So the Spangles set up Tic Records – guaranteed to bug ya! (registered trade mark – copyright reserved!).
“Dirty Bomb” effectively picks up where “Bazooka!” left off – but with a generous dash of added m-a-t-u-r-i-t-y. If the latter sounded like it was recorded in a genuine garage somewhere on the Lower East Side, “Dirty Bomb” sounds like it was recorded in a bigger garage just off E-Street. A slug of “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” era Brooce & a toke of early Tom Petty & His Heartbreakers have been added to the joint this time out. Expansive, as opposed to expensive. Sew in a few nods to more recent Jesse Malin material, & you’re just about there: a-good-time-in-a-bottle.
“Dirty Bomb” opens with a quality 1-2-3-4-5-6 shuffle (like Jonathon Richman on “Roadrunner”): “Take Care Of Us”, “Tear It To Pieces”, “Make Yourself Useful, Babe”, “This Side Of The Sun”, “Gangland” & “I’m On A High”. To the uninitiated, that means an opening gambit of 6-total quality songs on the bounce – something you don’t get that often in the populist arena of a rockin’ & a rollin’! By the time you get to “Gangland” you may well be making preliminary arrangements for the Star Spangles to become your ‘favourite-new-group-in-the-entire-universe’, forthwith. You may well have your mobile phone in your hand with Zane Lowe’s phone number on repeat dial. You may even be outside Pat Long’s house, lobbing Locust LPs at his window, demanding something real in place of platitude.
If we bunched the above up & called it side-1 – we wouldn’t be that far off the mark. That’s how they used to make LPs, you know? They had a beginning - & an end - & they knew full well the ups & downs that needed to happen along the way to make the ride worth pimping!
Side-2, should we chose to accept the construct, fairs no better, no worse. You don’t get this far down the hill only to discover you’re crap after all: “Gimme An Answer”, “Tell Lies”, “Another Weight To Hold Me Down”, “Revolver”, “I Told A Lie” & “Bash Your Brains Out” do exactly what you’d expect them to considering fully what they’ve followed. “Dirty Bomb” is in a class of it’s own! The class of ’76: the class that refused to accept ‘bullshit’ as the only answer to every question.
The spell is finally broken by the acoustic tremblings of “Someone In You” – the tender acoustic lament that closes the LP. Many of us thought the Star Spangles would never make another LP – yet alone one as rounded & finely honed as “Dirty Bomb”. If you liked “Bazooka” - you’ll love “Dirty Bomb” – it’s everything its predecessor was - & so much more. The Star Spangles are untouchable in their genre-pool. The rest of you playing this kind of schtick should be very, very disappointed with yourselves. As Joey Ramone would doubtless attest: you don’t come close!
Suburban Kid – tMx 29 – 04/07