Wednesday, May 13, 2009
CD Review - Cocktail Slippers - St. Valentine's Day Massacre
Saint Valentine's Day Massacre
Wicked Cool Records
It's been said that there is nothing new left to do in rock music. There may or may not be any real truth to that assertion, but in any event, it is a rare event to come across a band that truly sounds original or revolutionary. Indeed, in many cases, bands with a certain amount of success and notoriety still end up wearing their inspirations on their sleeves like so many tattoos. And Norway's Cocktail Slippers squarely fall into this latter category on their newest release, Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.
However, the leading lasses of Cocktail Slippers never allow the derivative nature of their sound stand too much in the way of creating what is ultimately a listenable, if somewhat unmemorable, rock and roll record. The album is essentially a collection of Junior Miss numbers about crushes and unrequited love, and feels as if it were transported from 1963, even if the underlying music owes more to a later time.
Some of the very elements that make Saint Valentine's Day Massacre as derivative as it is, are employed in such a high fashion that these elements end up becoming strengths of a band. As an example, the liberal use of 60s-style girl group harmonies, in a more modern context, such as on "Don't Ever Leave Me" and standout track "You Do Run", is equally reminiscent of The Chiffons as it is the Go-Gos, and are executed near flawlessly. Some of the songs themselves are really no more than first cousins of material The Friggs were doing ten years ago, or that The Runaways were doing thirty years back, but then, those are two pretty kickass bands to draw your stylistic and songwriting lineage from.
That said, some of the songs come off less well, notably the title track, which was penned by erstwhile garage rock aficionado, rock and roll legend, and all around good guy Steven Van Zandt. Yup, that one. "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" really does sound like it could have stepped out directly from the Asbury Park 70s heyday, and could pass for a Southside Johnny track, but for the distaff vocals.
Still, the album does have a few strong tracks that should invite repeated listens. In particular, the aforementioned "You Do Run" pulsates and drives, and on its own, the chorus is the stuff from which top down boulevard cruisin' summer hits emerge, perhaps with the enduring Go-Go's track "Our Lips Our Sealed" as the most direct reference point. "Love Me Back" is a tasty piece of mid-tempo junior prom angst, replete with fuzz bass, hand claps, and a passel of ooh-la-las. The cover of "In the City" is another pleasing slice of 60s girl group nostalgia faithfully executed, and a fun listen, to boot.
Ultimately, the album comes up as a bit of a wash, particularly when listened to in the context of some of the great Scandanavian garage-ish rock bands over the past decade, and doubly so when held up to artists such as Sahara Hotnights. This is mostly attributable to the simple fact that Cocktail Slippers simply don't rock out as hard as some of their brethren. When they sing about wondering whether they're still the girls "penciled in on your calendar", but asking who will be "the last lover standing, come St. Valentine's Day", it's easy to think they're more likely to shed tears about it during a sleepover with the Pink Ladies, than to switchblade the object of their romantic torment. The best parts of Saint Valentine's Day Massacre are really quite enjoyable, even if they are a bit short in quantity.