Reach for the Star Spangles’ first full-length album, Bazooka!!!, and you’re faced with the four Spangles’ torsos staggered across the cover: sloppy hair, tattered suit-jackets and youthful half-lit faces (imagine the Ramones End of the Century cover with bowties and a black back drop).
But wait, you say, who cares about the looks? The music should stand on its own, right? Absolutely. But, with the proliferation of “The [ ]s” bands, it’s an issue that can’t be dodged (for better or worse, you can toss a mesh hat over your shoulder in the East Village or Williamsburg and surely tag a skinny-tied or mod-cut musician).
So, why pay attention to the Star Spangles? Bazooka!!! provides many reasons. I’ll highlight four of them:
1) The Voice. Bazooka!!! opens with the gate-crashing “I Live For Speed,” which showcases the singer’s visceral appeal — Ian Wilson’s voice emotes (in the best sense of the word) equal parts earnestness and fuck-all attitude. The second track, “Which Of The Two Of Us Is Going To Burn This House Down,” furthers the themes of irreverence, destruction and love (and teamwork!) that re-appear throughout the album: “You turn the oven on / I light a match.”
Wilson’s raspy delivery — and verses of lost love, love of speed, and punk rock girls — evoke the lost days of dingy, smoke-filled bars. And, smoker or not, it’ll surely call you to attention — like an un-loosed safety pin dangling from your ripped jeans.
2) The Guitars. Fuzz is the buzzword for these tracks. The guitars are choppy and distorted as the band plows through each melodic chord change.
The timing and interaction between guitarist Tommy Volume and bassist Nick Price is a pleasure (regard Track 7, “L.A.”). On Bazooka!!! the Star Spangles offer a batch of well-constructed songs — full of measured aggression — that scream go, go, go (the album is littered with magnetic guitar hooks and rousing background vocals).
3) “Angela.” Wanna see a hipster shake? Play this track and watch the fists rise and hips wiggle (to the catchy chorus and whip-crack drums!).
4) “The Party.” Bazooka!!! steadily gains momentum until tracks 9 to 11, when the group offers a three-song down-shift. But they rally with the penultimate track, “Stained Glass Shoes,” for the full-on finale — the infectious bass and lead guitar lines, hand-clapping, and call-and-response chorus of: “P-A-R-T-(wh)Y didn’t you come with me!?!”
So there are four points. And now the bottom line: Bazooka!!! is a fine full-length effort from a band displaying the potential to rise beyond the inevitable back-lash against trucker hats, skinny ties, and formulaic three-chord punk-revivalists. With Bazooka!!! the Star Spangles invite you to the party and chide you for not attending at the same time. So, dig into the pockets of your vintage jacket. Buy this album and join them.