Pop music is in a very transitional stage in its ongoing evolution, and rock n’ roll has not been exempt from the ramifications of these growing pains. While some bands are retreating into the past and abandoning the experimental ideals that led their predecessors to fame and fortune, Stars in Toledo are bucking the trend and pushing into the future with a no holds barred attitude that is personified in their debut album, Stars in Toledo. They come out guns blazing in “Take It to the Breakdown,” “Mavericks” and “Don’t Wanna Talk Anymore,” and deliver relentlessness in every song that accompanies them on the record.
Not very many bands exhibit the keen attention to detail that Stars in Toledo do, and that’s precisely why songs like “Be Your Man,” “Get Me Right” and “99 Bottles” shine like the diamonds in the rough that they truly are when compared to the futile fodder dominating FM airwaves at the moment. The bass, the drums, the guitars, the virtuoso vocal leading the way; every component, and really every player, is pulling their weight in this LP, and what’s more is that we never get the impression that they’re competing for our affections. At their best, Stars in Toledo operate like a well-oiled machine – lean, efficient, and a singular entity in every sense.
I think that a little more urgency in “A Peek Behind the Curtain” and “Don’t Wanna Talk Anymore” would have made both songs a little more effective in the big picture, but I don’t think that they interrupt the even flow of the record in the slightest. The framework of all these songs – including tracks like the obtuse “99 Bottles” – is strong enough to be considered exceptionally provocative even when compared to the more robustly faceted material on the album. It’s not a perfect LP, but then again, it’s better than any other debut rock record I’ve reviewed this month.
The basslines are thick and even a tad more metallic in nature than the guitar riffs are in “Get Me Right,” “Mavericks,” “Hold on to Yesterday” and “Baby Banzai,” and they make me really interested in the concept of Stars in Toledo getting even heavier in their next album. Don’t get me wrong; a brooding ballad like “Be Your Man” wins me over any day of the week, but the grit and groove intensity of “Rnr 24 7 365” is something that fuels a Friday night like literally nothing else can, and that alone makes this album a must-listen this April.
Harder rock and milder metal aficionados would be wise to closely examine Stars in Toledo before considering another acquisition from their local record store this season, if for no other reason than to see what all of the fuss from critics like myself has been about. They live up to the buzz surrounding their moniker in this debut, and while I’ve got no doubt that they could elevate this sound to a higher plain of performance with the right means and methods put in front of them, they deserve a lot of credit for producing this stunner of a studio album that stands up with the best of them in what is truly a very competitive time for rock.