Starlite Desperation
Go Kill Mice CD - Flapping Jet

When I last checked with The Starlite Desperation, they had lost a guitar player, added a new one (in addition to bass player Yasmine Smith), moved from San Francisco to Detroit Rock City, and released the Hot For Preacher seven-inch. The record highlighted their two sides, the A-side being more of a straightforward punk n' roll assault, while the B-side pushed the more bluesy elements of their attack with a catchy circular guitar riff. Either way, it was a big jump from the earlier record, and one sensed that the next record would lean more towards the A-side or B-side sound. It wasn't as if it was really necessary for them to really resolve this issue but, as the new record bears out, they went in the B-side direction. After forty years of rock action, all anybody is doing is rearranging and recasting, if not out-and-out lifting, clichés. The better ones are able to snap the Legos together in a more inventive and therefore pleasing manner. Throughout Go Kill Mice, the band is able to recast classic blues-rock riffs in ways that don't sound cliché or overripe. "The Gold Rush" is a good example, with a feel that harkens back to the more mellow songs on the first record, leavening the familiar chord progression and country blues guitar lick with a clever outro. "Do You Wanna Be Here" features a Bo Diddley-ish, Afro-Cuban beat with wood blocks and maracas that dynamically shift back and forth into a harder rock version played with tom fills over a caustic Stooge riff, while "What I Want" casts a catalog of squawking blues riffs over a vocal that goes from leering to shouting and back. Only "Mona Lisa Snake" veers too closely to a sound derivative of Funhouse-isms, down to the Steve McKay toned sax playing of guest Mike Curtin. With the band pared down to a three-piece - guitar, bass and drums, respectively - they make the jump into a more hi-fi sound with Go Kill Mice. At first, it's pretty jarring to hear how clean the record sounds compared to Show You What A Baby Won't. The band sounds tighter and more focused, thanks to Dante White's handling of both rhythm and leads with multiple overdubs, Yasmine Smith's grounded deep-pocket bass, and Jeff Ehrenberg's flashy but dead-solid drumming. At certain times Ehrenberg practically steals the show with clever and energetic swinging beats and by spiking the rhythm with judicious use of percussion other than his trap kit. Instead of going for a more sparse sound with one guitar, White essentially duets with himself; his guitars weave and dance around each other giving depth to the deceptively simple songs. The confidence with which they created this record augured an even better one down the line, but word has it that The Starlite Desperation broke up after their most recent tour, which makes this record, in the end, somewhat frustrating to listen to in terms of what this band promised.

 

 


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