Some bands pitch their sights at recreating a sound from a bygone era so accurately that it’s easy to overlook the quality of their original songwriting. Especially if what they’re looking to recreate is something like airbrushed and hair brushed 80’s power pop metal in the vein of Pat Benetar or Vixen. In the upside down of Imaginary Bands Week there exists a cohort of real bands in imaginary eras. Starbenders play like they wish it had always been 1987. They sound like in their dreams they had heard their name read aloud by Casey Casem as he said “Americas Top 10 continues” while they watched from a portable TV on a tour bus between dates supporting Scorpions.
I want that for them too.
Cover Me does the world building on that kind of jag beautifully. It’s a perfect costume drama of post Bat Out Of Hell pre Bat Out Of Hell II power pop metal. Think Lita Ford’s self titled album (the one with Kiss Me Deadly on it) and Doro Pesch reaching for a hit single. Think Heart during Bad Animals. I’m posting a live acoustic take below so you can strip all the studio bluster away and just listen to an MOR tune that would have suited Stevie Nicks in the 80’s or Patti Smith in a playful moment.
Playful is a key word in Starbenders approach to hair metal history. They’re not doing the sleaze or the big rock shapes and massive egos of that fateful era. They’re not a Sunset Strip Mötley Crüe junkie loving type of cliche. They’re having a bit more fun with it than Steel Panther or Greta Van Fleet. The goofy video with Rayguns and Evil Pigmen is only part of it. The wardrobe choices as all tongue in cheek. Not quite The Darkness style excess, just the right side of convincing but still looking like they’re on their way to a costume party.
Other tracks with titles like Bitches Be Witches and Getting Harder belie any attempt at a poker face. Their album Love Potion is a glorious thing. Another Sumerian Records band who live in the dressing up box and embrace the genres trappings as things to be celebrated. Filed alongside Lilith and Palaye Royale they make for a real-deal-ral-feel-gentile kind of heavy rock.
If you’re partial to a bit of Massive Wagons, The Struts or Lizzies then the era of eternal rock may welcome Starbenders along side the original bands of the era. As part of an alternative time line where Grunge never happened and Joan Jett is president, Starbenders have a place on an MTV that still plays music.
Cover me, I’m going in…