Glam Rock

Everybody Wants – The Struts

 

Release Year: 2014

Rating: 8.5/10

While scrolling through various music sites, I saw The Struts’ name pop up now and then, but I didn’t pay much attention. I got my first taste of them at Lollapalooza 2016 and man, are they amazing. As soon as I got home I grabbed a copy of their album and fell in love. There’s a reason why they’re climbing up the ranks of rock music. Looking like a blast from the past, their music brings the fun and sexy back to rock music. From start to finish the album keeps you moving and singing, making it impossible to feel anything but good.

The Struts get the party started with the energetic “Roll Up.” It has a steady build up making you pumped for what’s about to come. Frontman Luke Spiller starts singing about the day in the life of a rock star. Right away you get a sense of his fun, playful vocal style, very reminiscent of the late Freddie Mercury. Everything explodes when the hyper hook of “Everybody wants/everybody wants/roll up/roll up” hits. Hearing the hook along with the rocking music gets you bouncing from start to finish. At the end of this song you’re rocking out and ready for more. Luckily, the band keeps the hits rolling with the anthemic “Could Have Been Me.”

With its big hook, driving music, and ferocious hand claps “Could Have Been Me” is made for stadiums. It’s a song everyone can get behind not only for its catchy hook but for its overall message. Spiller sings about living life and not wasting time wondering “what if?” It’s about doing what you want and having no regrets. Listening to it, you can picture thousands of people singing along while stomping out the beat. The band’s vintage rock sound comes out on the sexy and fun “Kiss This.” Spiller is playful yet sassy as he talks about getting fed up in a relationship and finally leaving. And it’s impossible not to be infected by the simple refrain of “uh uh uh uh uh kiss this!” It’s the perfect fuck off song to sing at the top of your lungs.

Most of The Struts’ songs on this album seem to represent the 70s glam era of partying and debauchery. There are plenty songs with that sleazy, sexy sound, like “Dirty Sexy Money,” which is all about having a good time and letting loose. The stand out “Put Your Money on Me” has a similar vibe with its irresistible hook, fun vibe, and vintage flavor. Things switch up on the more 80s sounding “My Machine.” The opening has electro synth making it sound like a Devo song and even Spiller sings in a robotic manner. Once it gets to the hook it gets back to hardcore, high energy rocking. Like so many of their other songs, there’s something downright awesome about this one. And like so many classic rock songs, this one uses the car metaphor for a sexy woman. It’s dirty, sexy, and playful.

Though it’s clear The Struts like to party and get wild, there’s a sentimental side. There’s actually a surprising amount of love songs on the album. One of the most energetic and light sounding songs is “She Makes Me Feel.” Unlike the other tracks, the music here is really bright and almost carefree. There’s even upbeat whistling that plays along with the melody. Spiller sings about the shitty things in life not mattering, as long as he can come home to his lady whose his “pick me up.” “Black Swan” and “You + I” follow a similar suit, but focuses on lost love and a love/hate relationship respectively. Though they’re not as party driven as the other songs, they still keep they’re upbeat, rocking nature ensuring there’s never a dull moment.

The album was eventually reissued in the US with five new tracks: “Mary Go Round,” “These Times are Changing,” “Young Stars,” “Only One Call Away,” and “The Ol’ Switcheroo.” In turn, three songs from the original release were dropped. While the new songs are decent and have that same, upbeat fun nature to them, none are as good or better than the tracks on the original. Every song on the 2014 release is engaging, fun, and awesome. The new songs, not so much. They’re not bad; just not all that memorable. If you’re going to grab a copy of this album, I recommend picking up the original.

This is one of the most fun rock albums I’ve heard in a while. The Struts bring mindless fun, partying, and sleaziness to rock and roll. As soon as it starts, the album keeps you moving, singing, and dancing. It’s impossible to feel bad when you listen to this record. The songs are upbeat, carefree, and even sentimental at times. Luke Spiller is charming, playful, and seductive making anyone who hears his voice fall in love with him. The band predicted their own success with the title Everybody Wants. Now, we can’t get enough of The Struts.

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Transylvania 90210: Songs of Death, Dying, and the Dead – Wednesday 13

Release Year: 2005

Rating: 7/10

It’s been ten years since Wednesday 13 brought his love of horror movies to the music world. He’s been in multiple bands, including the Murderdolls, but is best known for his solo material. While he just released his eight studio album a few months ago, let’s take a look at his solo debut. His music explores themes of the supernatural, ghouls, zombies, and other horrific creatures. And while he makes it work for a lot of the songs, some of them have the tendency to come off as cheesy, sort of like the movies he loves.

Right from the instrumental intro track “Post Mortum Boredom,” which sounds like it was ripped from an old horror movie, you know you’re in for some horror-punk goodness. “Look What the Bats Dragged In” has a gritty hard rock vibe along with a mix of 80s hair metal, particularly when it comes to the guitar solo. This has all the markings of a Wednesday 13 song: loud music, lots of howls, and lyrics that talk about the dead and dying. While it’s not his strongest track it’s still a good representation of the album. “I Walked with a Zombie” is one of the more well known songs and has a bit of a different vibe. It sounds more like a pop-punk song with the various melodies and a clapping beat. There’s even a part where Wednesday sings “Whoa oh oh oh oh” like he’s in Poison. That’s not to say it makes the song bad; it’s definitely catchy and energetic.

Bad Things” takes influence from 80s glam metal as the singer wishes the most horrible things to happen to his enemy, while “House by the Cemetery” has more of a straight forward heavy metal sound. It mixes schlocky horror sounds like creepy laughter and creaking doors with aggressive and brutal riffs. These two songs are where Wednesday 13 shines. He perfectly mixes his horror-punk vibe in a way that doesn’t sound like he’s trying too hard. The same can’t be said about the track “Haunt Me.” It starts off on a promising note with the creepy carnival music and maniacal laughing. 13 sings in a hushed voice bringing a different style to his vocals that hasn’t been heard before. But the lyrics are too cheesy for their own good. It’s a love song that’s about meeting up on Halloween and being “scared to death.” It tries too hard to bring a creepy element to a love song.

The title track has the same problem. The opening verse sounds like it was written by a 15 year old goth “poet:” “My room came alive, my dog just died, stacked 13 pennies in his eyes/I stared at the wall, it stared back at me/Started to breath and then it started to bleed.” The creepy intent is there, but it doesn’t succeed. Again, it sounds like he’s trying too hard to be disturbing and depressing. Aside from that, the song is pretty weak in general. The lyrics are boring, the music is too slow, and it dulls you before the track is over.

One of the best songs on the LP is “Rot for Me.” Here, 13 returns to the hard rock sound that’s so infectious it lures you in. The way he snarls at the beginning of the hook is viscous, like he’s a dog ready to attack. It’s oddly catchy with its simple, repetitive riff of “Rot for me/my darling.” “I Want You Dead” is another strong track with an “I-hate-you-so-much-I-want-you-to-die” message. This track is full of high energy and speeding guitars that have a punk rock feel. “Buried by Christmas” is a curious entry. As I mentioned on a previous playlist, it’s a great Christmas song, but why does it have to be included on the album? It should’ve been released as a single or b-side. The way it is now it interrupts the flow of the record, unless you’re one of those people who like listening to Christmas songs all year round. Weirdo.

“Elect Death for President” mixes things up a bit in terms of music. It begins with a shuffling vibe similar to Rob Zombie’s “House of 1000 Corpses” before moving into a jazz sound that really throws you off. While it’s confusing at first, especially when the horns come in later, it oddly works with the song. The downside is the chorus, which sounds very similar to “Bad Things.” Though it’s one of the better songs on the album, it crosses the cheesy line once too many times. “The Ghost of Vincent Price” would make any classic horror fan proud. Featuring a creepy theremin, which was a staple in horror music, the singer makes several reference to the later actor’s movies, including House on Haunted Hill and House of Wax. While it’s far from the best track on the record, it’s still better than the closing track “A Bullet Named Christ,” which tries too hard to be gloomy and depressing.

The album was actually better than I thought. There are some strong tracks that will feed your wild, heavy metal side. There are even moments when 13 mixes his horror references with his music delightfully. But there are other times when it comes off as cheesy, forced, and over the top. Maybe this is the point, he is a fan of cheesy b-movies after all, but there are times when it’s too much to handle. Wednesday 13 has fine tuned his craft over the years, but his first solo outing predicted a promising career for the ghoul master.

Mini Music Movie Review: Velvet Goldmine (1998)

VelvetGoldminePoster

This late ’90s film looks at the rock glam era and tells the story of fictional rock star Brian Slade. It shows his evolution from a mod rocker to a glam rock superstar who let fame get to his head. One thing that becomes clear fairly quick is the main character is loosely based off of David Bowie and some other glam stars of the era. Fun fact: Bowie himself hated the script and didn’t want any of his songs used. While the film doesn’t follow one particular rock star from the era, it at least gives viewers an idea about the scene and the music of the time.

The plot of the film is like a two hour episode of Behind the Music. We see his musical beginnings, his rise to fame, his downfall, and his life of obscurity. This doesn’t mean the film isn’t interesting; the flamboyant costumes and cast keeps you engaged. As you would expect there are quite a number of performances in the film. Some there of them are interesting, like “Baby’s on Fire,” but it grows tiring after a while. As we follow Brian’s journey to fame, we also experience his sexual awakening, which means lots of random sex scenes. We also get to see the reactions from his friends and family when they discover his bisexuality. It’s an interesting part of the story that leads to some scandalous moments.

While the movie is good, it’s pretty easy to get confused. So much happens between Brian’s career and his relationships it can be hard to keep up. There are also so many characters it’s sometimes difficult to figure out who they are. The one thing I remember having trouble with the most was figuring out who Brian was sleeping with and who he considered to be in a relationship with. It’s one of those movies where you feel like you have to watch at least two times before you really understand what’s going on.

If you’re a fan of glam rock, then you’ll love the music in the film. The soundtrack features a lot of songs from the era, but most of them are covered by other artists like Placebo, Thom Yorke, and even Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who stars in the movie. All the artists do a respectable job of covering classics like “20th Century Boy,” “Diamond Meadows,” “Hot One,” and “Satellite of Love.” One of my favorites is “Baby’s on Fire.” I was actually surprised at how good Rhys sounded while singing. It can’t compete with the original, but he still does a great job.

As mentioned earlier, the movie does a pretty good job of recreating the glam era, but sometimes the excessive plot makes it easy to get lost. This is one of those weird films where you actually like it, but find it’s not that memorable. There are a few key scenes that stand out, but otherwise the film is a blur, which is how I feel about The Doors movie. If you’re a music buff or a Bowie fan, I recommend you check it out. It’s not the best music movie out there, but it’s a decent one that’s at least entertaining.