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The Starlite Desperation - Take It Personally

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Artist: The Starlite Desperation

Album: Take It Personally

Label: Infrasonic Sound

Review date: Sep. 30, 2008

Take It Personally is the Starlite Desperationís third full-length, and their first formal outing since Violate a Sundae was released Cold Sweat in 2006. The songs, apparently, had a long gestation period. You can hear a couple of them on a WFMU radio show from 2004, DJíd by Dusted contributor Mike Lupica. Three of the best cuts Ė "We Donít Do Time", "My Violin" and "I Lost My Bees" Ė made their first appearance on a tour-only CD called We Donít Do Time.

Despite the evident time lag, thereís nothing stale about this CD. Itís fresh, taut and ferocious, its garage rock primitivism in uneasy equilibrium with glam-tinged flash and posing. Consider the riff on "I Lost My Bees," the bass muttering, the guitars off the rails like "Peter Gunn" gone mad. The sense of darkness, the echo, the drama all remind me of the Wipers, but thereís a lush theatricality in these tunes at odds with post-punkís minimal aesthetic. For a good 30 seconds, on the 12/8 blues, "I Love This!!," singer Dante Adrian sounds exactly like Freddy Mercury, all flourish and preen above gritty guitar vamps.

All these songs have an anarchic energy. Their parts interlock rather than meld together, everything distinct and dissonant. Guitars zig-zag in and around bass lines. Drums ricochet around fractious melodies. Thereís a sense of reaction and interplay, rather than a common plan. Listen to the sudden flashes of new-wave guitar erupting on "We Donít Do Time," almost at random intervals amid scratchy bass and drums, and, later on, how the vocal counterpoints ("We donít, we donít, we donít do...") intersect with the main triumphant chorus. Itís a slash and retreat kind of music, full of implied aggression and premeditated violence, dotted with dead stops and multi-instrumented onslaughts. It is also exactly the sort of thing to get recalcitrant asses moving.

And then there are the lyrics, surreal to the point of nonsensicality. Adrian is evidently the kind of writer who is willing to let the rhyme drive the line, yet his stream-of-consciousness connections between words, sounds and images often produces arresting results. Lines like "When you buy a star / From a drug czar" or "At the water park / Mingle with the sharks" from "Donít Wait Until After You Die" are like twisted Dr. Seuss rhymes, hop-on-popping their way into your limbic system. Do they mean anything? Do you have any chance of figuring it out? Probably not, but thereís a dada kind of symmetry to them. You canít help probing them a little to see if they can be made into some kind of sense.

Itís easy to see why Starlite Desperation proved too volatile for Capitol. Thereís just too much force and intelligence and daring on the table to package into next yearís Redwalls. Still, you have to sympathize with this very talented band wasting three years while trying to find singles for the majors. They could have been making more albums like this one instead.

By Jennifer Kelly

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