It’s a pleasure and refreshing to see and hear so many newer bands taking a direct, no-nonsense approach to rock and roll again – there’s been too much of this fluffy, over-stylized music that tries to pass itself off as rock and roll. And Western Star, a young band from Baltimore is one of the most intensely, straight up rock and roll bands I’ve heard this year. Described as being influenced mainly by Thin Lizzy, The Pixies and The Old 97’s, I’d say that’s pretty accurate – and I’d throw in the Stones, because the vibe is there. That the album was, in fact, produced by The Old 97’s Ken Bethea says it all – and it’s a production that fits the music completely. Sounding raw and raunchy but still structured and melodic, their debut album, Fireball, is a welcome introduction.
Starting with the riff driven title track, it’s a four-minute musical supernova that blasts at you and leaves you breathless pretty quickly. “Ghostchaser” has a Black Crowes-type uptempo feel (think By Your Side period); “Thousand Heartaches”‘s twin guitar intro builds up into an manic piece with tension and drive and “Clockwork”, with its Zeppelin-esque “dirty” sound and riffage turns around and becomes a raving screamer with a brilliantly skewered chorus with harmonies. “Ladykiller” has a moment of Replacements-oriented guitars (during the period when that band was on form); “Stars And Cards” is a slower piece with a down-home melancholy with (again) very Mick-and-Keith-like vocals and “Oracle” closes this intital bow with heavy bass, some “spacey” guitars and drone that just builds and explodes into a controlled cacophony.
Again, pure rock and roll doesn’t get much better or broader than this. That it’s a young band making their debut says a lot. And they do it with tunefulness, energy and skill. Western Star is on the rise – and you will be hearing a LOT about them down the not-too-distant road.
Fireball is available now