MAJOR STARS: 4

Major Stars are Boston's best-kept secret, as anyone who has witnessed their live performances over the years can certainly attest. By day, under the auspices of their basement record shop Twisted Village—truly a Boston institution—Wayne and Kate are purveyors of psychedelic rock and hard-to-find underground sounds from around the world.

By night, under the auspices of their group Major Stars, Wayne and Kate are equally enthusiastic purveyors of hard, loud and ferocious nonstop rock n' roll ecstasy. They've opened up for Comets on Fire on tour, even though their brand of high-octane, often instrumental rock is heavier and more substantial than the Comets' most wishful daydreams. This is not to suggest that they are superior; rather that they are more pure, unadulterated and outright, unashamedly rawk. People who like to name things call Major Stars a "psychedelic" rock band, but they're no more "psychedelic" than the sludge at the bottom of your Turkish coffee. What they are is kick-your-ass, balls-to-the-wall, energized freeform rock, full of big fat hairy riffs and powerful dynamics, rapidly switching gears to chase the next monstrous pummeling chord progression. The foursome gel perfectly on stage, and this record, their first to be recorded in a state-of-the-art 25-track studio, captures the group beautiful, and is perhaps the best reflection yet of their live sound on record. The only things missing are the flying sweat droplets and the heady breeze created by Kate's headbanging, hair-tossing stage theatrics. There are only four tracks and about 40 minutes of music, but when the rock is this meat-and-potatoes, it can't help but leave me satisfied, even though I certainly wouldn't turn down seconds. "How To Be" wastes no time introducing their particular brand of crashing, resounding guitars, sounding exactly like Lester Bang's hyperbole-filled description of a Who gig, rather than what The Who really sounded like. The background is filled with a solid wall of guitar runoff, Casey Keenan's caveman rhythms, forming a backdrop for Wayne's soul-shredding post-Hendrix guitar performance, pulling far more sound out of his instrument than should be physically possible. "Song For Turner" is long and lyric-less, a study in reigned-in rock chaos if ever there was one, pausing for some detuned guitar noise every now and then, shifting to another rhythm and key when it suits them. It's totally accessible and totally grandiose, leading into the album's power-pop pit-stop "All Or Half the Time," which rivals The Bevis Frond for pure, pleasurable rock songcraft. Ending things brilliantly is the 15-minute "Phantom #1," which starts out as slowly shifting modal guitar drone, totally thick and hypnotic, before introducing rhythm and rapidly upping the tempo until the song has become a roof-lifting heavy metal beast, grinning and majestic. No bullshit: Major Stars is just damned good rock music, so how come you haven't heard this yet?

 

jonathan dean (brainwashed)