Warmth is the same feeling that I get from STAR’s Devastator, which is itself an album overrun by imperfections. Low-level percussion bleeds into buzzsaw guitar riffs that are themselves drenched in airy, doubled vocals and thrown headlong into rumbling bass lines. Devastator is catastrophic and, for lack of a better word, noisy. But it is filled with honest-to-goodness pre-production noise, the same kind of unfiltered atmospherics that you would encounter at a live show, on AM radio, or while listening to your old LPs. Some may think it a sign of laziness or inexperience with recording. Personally, I find that kind of let-it-be graininess endearing. Such distortion is part and parcel of the divergent sounds that comprise a song, and removing all of the squips, squeaks, and squops is like unnecessary cosmetic surgery—it is a disservice to the inherent beauty of the original article.
Go natural, says I, and STAR’s Chicagoan trio of Theodore Beck, Scott Cortez, and Shannon Roberts do just that. Sure, there is a liberal smattering of effects pedals and synth effects at work in Devastator, what with Beck’s canned beats and lint-encrusted bass riffs, Cortez’s fuzzed-out guitar licks, and Roberts’ echoing lilt. Even so, it does not feel like a forced aesthetic meant to garner street cred with the lo-fi sect (guitar feedback = 20 Scene Points), nor is it a post-production audio filter thrown in by some retro-minded sound tech. Nope—it is all STAR, baby, and it sounds grand.
Cuing up a synthetic drone like a cut from Yo La Tengo or Windsor for the Derby, “Pure Gold Reason” wastes no time in introducing STAR’s two best (or, most prominent) features: Cortez’s sawmill riffs and Roberts’s oft-incomprehensible croons. Coupled with Beck’s straightforward 4/4 stomp of bass and beats, Cortez and Roberts craft weighty gems that are all the more endearing for their uncut roughness. “Exploding Order,” “Switchblade Heart,” “No More Party,” and “Liars in Love” follow suit with the fuzz and buzz licks underneath soft-spoken vox and simple, chorus-centric pop ditties, which is more or less the formula for every track on Devastator (an observation, not a complaint).
Simple, yeah, but the delightful messiness of STAR’s debut album is just what my inner head-bobbing show-shuffler needed to shake off the winter doldrums and get ready to rock out to spring.
Audio Reviews (May 5th, 2007)
Tags: audio, review, star, devastator, lovely rebel records