Major label polish joins guitar-driven pop-punk
Miles Cooke
15:08 15th September 2022

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She Said, the third studio album from Los Angeles rock band Starcrawler, adds major label polish to the guitar-driven pop-punk that’s seen the group make their mark on the live circuit this summer. It comes off of shows with big hitters like Jack White, Porno for Pyros and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, as well as aiding in the revival of everyone’s favourite, My Chemical Romance. She Said follows 2018’s self titled debut and 2019’s Devour You with Starcrawler’s first release on Big Machine Records. 

By roping in industry titan Tyler Bates, known best for his work on blockbuster film franchises like John Wick, on production duties, and tasking critical darling director Robert Trejo with helming the stylishly curated music videos (including a Steve-O cameo that would be unexpected were it not for the hundreds of YouTube comments saying how unexpected it was) the cynical may be led to question the Californian group’s rock and roll credentials. On listening to She Said however, Starcrawler’s embrace of Hollywood punk heritage, dad rock and '90s alternative makes for a functional hour or so of mostly unpretentious guitar music.

The album opens full-throttle with 'Roadkill', tight and riff-laden with a catchy hook that emulates the heavy power-pop of L.A. legends X, whilst frontwoman Arrow de Wilde growls through a threatening lyric. 

The title track skips forward a decade or so years in its influences, taking the quiet-loud verse-chorus dynamic Nirvana were oh so fond of and making for as good a ‘soft grunge’ song than anything that came post Cobain. Paired with the studio shot music video that shows the band hard at work in an intimate setting, 'She Said' comes across as vulnerable and world weary whilst maintaining that crucial pop sensibility.

'Stranded' also takes obvious cues from '90s alternative. The opening riff is more than a little like Nirvana’s 'Lithium', and the Hole comparisons that have stuck to Starcrawler like oil spills to exotic birds are apt here. Comparing every female-fronted alternative rock band with Hole and every female-frontperson with Courtney Love comes across as lazy journalism, but what are you to do when that’s what the song sounds like? It’s a good song, but only in the way that a paint-by-numbers ends up a good painting.

There’s more going on on 'Thursday', a melodic pop-punk track with echoes of The Pretenders and Joan Jett that suffers only from seeming to end too quickly. 'Broken Angels' has a touch of Bowie and some smart musical choices whilst 'Jetblack’s fuzzy guitar solo is fun, but for every moment of intrigue there’s inoffensive Foo Fighters-like snoozers such as 'True Deranged' to keep things MOR.

Starcrawler certainly look like rockstars. You can envisage them throwing a TV out of a hotel window...probably multiple times so the label’s cameraman can get the perfect shots. At their best, Starcrawler sound electric, though putting what’s arguably the best song at the top of the album is always a risky move. At their worst, like on near parody country style closing track 'A Better Place', they’re impeccably derivative and/or boring. She Said is for the most part a perfectly serviceable album of guitar music, with some genuinely interesting moments. It isn’t anything more than that though. 

She Said arrives 16 September via Starcrawler Music/Big Machine.

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Photo: Press