CD Review

By Tommy Hough, Staff Writer
©Copyright 2021 Hough

Recorded in Ocean Beach, we're told, during the Solar Eclipse of June 10, 2002, Starshak's eponymous EP does have the sound and vibe of a special, exciting event for this six-man aggregation. Clearly comfortable being in the same room with each other, these musicians are also aware that tape is rolling and that this is no ordinary performance, but their occasional self-consciousness is loosened by their natural buoyancy and joy of playing, not to mention some pretty catchy songs with a joy all their own that belies some occasionally agitated lyrics.

"Why Is It" is a happy shuffle with some pleasant changes and flourishes that seem to be striving to reflect the best of the O.B. experience with some guitar leads that veer toward the Allman Brothers' "Jessica," asking "if the choices you make take you where you need to go," an integral and basic question in evolving and personal growth, and if the guitar leads on "Why Is It" remind you of a greater Capricorn Records vibe the cool keyboard rollicking that leads off "Blue Lady" will remind you of a gentle push out the door into the French Quarter as Starshak takes a tougher lyrical turn, apparently addressing a tired groupie or at least a cheating galpal. Stops and starts highlight the song's tension, closing with a clever vocal cascade over some refried Neil Young before launching into another ascending flow of buildup to close the song.

"The Alchemy of Song" may be the most aloof, declaring the subject to be "killing all the love inside of you" aside an otherwise at first innocuous, chatty guitar before sliding into a bloozy if breezy "wore me down" descending chorus. This is good stuff. Aaron Bleiweiss' guitar bubbles and crackles like an exasperated lover trying to make it work with a partner who may not even be on the same moral page, yet never loses the melody before taking on some tasty, call-and-response leads, then more build-ups and releases as the band happily tumbles along, easing and revisiting tension, "wore me down" girl, "wore me down."

"Silent War" may the most subversive fun on Starshak's EP as a knowing keyboard chimes to warn better of trusting matters of the heart in this "neon web," "spider's lips" outing. Perhaps a metaphor of incessant, sometimes unintended mind games between lovers or even business partners, it's the things we don't say but imply that often defines a relationship's lasting impression, and despite our pride we can sometimes still bring ourselves back to the "little corporate whore" even though they've wreaked havoc on our mood all day (just as we may have played with aching, loose teeth as kids), revisiting pain but finding we miss it when it's gone. "Silent War" sets the stage for the gentle, earnest harmonies en español of closer "Estamos," and though I'm not up to snuff on my Spanish, when the English seamlessly kicks in saying goodbye to the singers' señorita of experience in Mexico it takes me a few pleasant seconds to even notice the arrival of my native tongue.

I have to admit I was really taken by this CD during a road trip to Santa Cruz, and the music matched my vibe and guided my head towards a place I needed to be that weekend on the road. Give these guys a little more in the dynamics department and a slightly fatter sound with equally hooky songs and they could be on to something, a kind of slicked-down Steely Dan meeting a graceful, happily jamming Modeski, Martin and Wood, if you must have a comparison.

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