Album number 3 for LA garage rock darlings Starcrawler sees the band broaden their musical horizons and aim to break away from the feral punk rock that they are best known for. ‘She Said’ is Starcrawler’s lockdown album and sees the band going through some major changes. The addition of Bill Cash on guitar/pedal steel now makes the band a five-piece, a major label deal with Big Machine and a big-name producer in Tyler Bates is as much a statement of intent as the opening track and first single ‘Roadkill’.
With 10 songs delivered in just over 30 minutes, ‘She Said’ does not seem that much of a departure really, but sonically and songwriting-wise it definitely is. Then there are the videos. Produced by Gilbert Trejo and featuring cameos from Steve O and Danny Trejo, it seems Starcrawler have pulled out all the stops. Hey, I’m sold, not only do they sound good but they look good too! With the pink/black imagery they have going on and a singer with the best hair since Michael Monroe in his Hanoi Rocks days, Starcrawler are the poster band for the younger generation.
Live, it’s definitely Singer Arrow De Wilde and guitarist Henri Cash who steal the show but let’s not forget that in the songwriting department bassist Tim Franco is credited with the duo in every song.
So, to the music. With urgent beats and a wall of guitars ‘Roadkill’ explodes from the speakers. If there was ever a song designed to deliver a statement of intent, then this was it! A chorus that wraps around your brain like a viper waiting to strike, it will not leave your head intact. Arrow’s lazy, dreamy vocals, Henri’s backing vocals, and the relentless stabbing feel of the tune pummeling with every beat. 2 minutes and 22 seconds of punk rock energy.
The radio-friendly title track follows. It has that grunge quiet/loud/quiet format and sounds more like Hole than Courtney Love has in 20 years. It helps that the songwriting is first class and they have the coolest middle eight I’ve heard this year. De Wilde’s nonchalant vocal delivery and Cash’s wailing licks are a match made in heaven. One of the standout tracks of the album for sure.
A killer one-two is always a great way to start an album, but there is the risk of shooting your musical load prematurely. ‘Stranded’ is ok with a so-so chorus that does grow with repeated listens, and ‘Thursday’ continues with spikey, new wave vibes, but ultimately falls short.
Then we get to the point where Starcrawler have really excelled themselves and broken the mold. ‘Broken Angels’ is a cinematic affair, with strings, killer beats, and a melody to die for. It exudes romanticism and LA cool chic, in the same way, ‘Hollywood Ending’ did, but here they do it better.
With its effect-ridden guitars and 80’s alternative stylings, ‘Jetblack’ comes on like The Pretenders meets Duran Duran, sideswiped with early Hanoi Rocks, a sound I can’t really fault. Again, in the likes of ‘Midnight’ Arrow’s delivery has this dreamy, new wave quality to it that sits well.
The pop-punk of ‘Runaway’ is fantastic, and the sort of thing Starcrawler excel at. High energy, catchy, and pumping. De Wilde’s dreamy, yet powerful vocal rules the show and it has definite Ramones/Runaways vibes. I must note there is an acoustic version of this on YouTube of the band performing on a canal boat which is just as good but creates a completely different vibe.
Which leads us to the countrified album closer ‘Better Place’. It sees De Wilde and Cash share lead vocals over acoustics and pedal steel guitars. The juxtaposition of the male/female vocals works well, and the dreamy, emotive vibes created bode well. If this is the direction Starcrawler finds themselves heading in the future, then I’d be happy with that.
With a fistful of potential hit singles and the coolest album cover of the year, Starcrawler are definitely making a statement with ‘She Said’. While it’s certainly their best, most cohesive album to date, it still feels like a band who have more to give and are still finding their true direction. The fact that it has 3 of my favourite songs of the year and their recent live show was one of my highlights makes Starcrawler one of the most exciting bands of the year for me.
Author: Ben Hughes