Sweden’s Starmen were formed out of a collective love for the classic hard rock of the seventies and eighties. Part of this love was a desire on the part of the band members to dress up in silly costumes and paint their faces with individually-coloured stars… The Starmen were born!
Call me an old curmudgeon if you like – I don’t want to stop anyone have a bit of fun in these troubled times, please believe me – but I really don’t see the point. Were Starmen’s music rotten, I could see the prescience of hiding behind names like ‘Red Starman‘ and painting your face to hide your identity. But it isn’t – By The Grace Of Rock n’Roll contains some of the best Kiss music never written by Gene and Paul, and the performances of all four band members are a joy to behold. The title track is truly spine-tingling, and when the band aren’t outdoing the hottest band in the World in the gonzo hard rock stakes they are creating stadium-devouring AOR classics-in-waiting like the Toto-meets-Journey mashup that is Kairi. Seriously, the phrase ‘what’s not to like?’ will be lodged in your brain for weeks after you give yourself a dose of this unalloyed rock n’roll madness…
In fact the goosebumps on my body work overtime as soon as I put By The Grace of Rock n’Roll into my portable device and press play. Red Starman – yes, there really is one – Kristian Hermanson has the sort of over the top vocal chops most singers would kill for – he could easily take over from Paul Stanley should the great man follow through with his threat of replacing himself in Kiss with faceless musicians and carrying on the brand forever – whilst guitarist Purple Starman (Andreas Lindgren) is an effortless guitar hero, at home equally with the slinky, funky, seventies-flavoured hard rock of Black Thunder White Lightning as he is on sleek, more modern-sounding melodic rockers like Kisses of An Enemy.
The lurching Immigrant Song tribute Pleasuredome isn’t quite so enjoyable, and indeed the second half of the album is merely ‘spectacular’ rather than ‘pan-galactic’, although the Dio-era Rainbow classicism of Hotter Than Fire is rather exciting – especially Purple Starman’s guitar overload – but the fact remains that the levels of quality here far surpass what many bands can only dream of, let alone attain. Should they ditch the costume n’panstick? I think so, though I suspect I’m in the minority. But frankly, if they can keep churning out albums as good as By The Grace of Rock n’Roll, who cares?
By The Grace Of Rock n’Roll releases on March 12th.