Once again your rockin’ writer felt the need to resurrect his “Listen Again” series. For those of you just joining us, the “Listen Again” series is a series in which we revisit albums that for one reason or another didn’t receive the attention or acclaim they deserved when they were originally released. Whether it was the recording was ahead of its time, broke away from the artist’s usual style, was poorly publicized or initially misunderstood, the “Listen Again” series urges music fans to listen again.
This time we revisit Star Off Machine’s Burn This. But first, for those not up on their indie artists, Star Off Machine is a Southern California based rock band founded in 2007. (For those who are dying to know, the group’s moniker references the children’s book The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss.) The original line-up included: Erick Holloway (lead vocals), Robin Charlet (lead guitar and backing vocals), Jeremy Whitely (bass) and Greg Tuthill (drums). (Aaron Wilder is the current bassist.)
In 2008 the group was declared the “Best Hard Rock Band” and “Rock Group of the Year” at the Orange County Music Awards and the Los Angeles South Bay Music Awards largely due to the earlier release of their debut disc Burn This. Here they are occasionally assisted by an assortment of other artists including: Stephen Perkins (percussion), Therese Fetter (strings and violin), Todd Williams (violin), Kathleen Sihler (viola), Jonathan Chenowerth (cello), John Thomson (B3 organ), Alicia Dato, Callie Weiss and Karl Kofmehl (backing vocals).
The twelve-track 2008 premiere CD opens on a song titled “Disaster”. This is a potent, professional piece. It is a hard rock track that includes lyrics that focus on a sorry self-reflection that bears witness to a life that is--to say the very least--less than perfect at this point.
The second selection here is titled “Lost”. It moves and has that commercial polish to it that would make it work on FM radio. It’s followed by another early example of their skills titled “Inside Out”. However, both only reveal a bit of what is yet to come.
“Walk Away” comes in next and takes the band in a slightly different direction. There are still elements of their signature sound here but listeners continue to learn they are not a “one-shot” band. The next number is “Side of Me” which continues to cement the sound in this solid, rockin’ disc.
“Say Goodbye” is confusing as the next cut. The first impression is this would be the album’s end-note but it isn’t. It’s more of a “girl-give-it-up-and get-goin’ song. It’s also an effective intro to the titular track, “Burn This”, as the band plays on proving their worth as a force to be listened to, so to speak.
“Superstar” is not a cover. Not to be confused with the 1969 tune by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell or even the 2007 track by rapper Lupe Fiasco, this is, like all the music on the recording, an original work. Naturally then the next number, “Almost”, is also an original composition not to be confused with the 2005 hit by Bowling for Soup. (It has at least as much personality, of course, but is a different song entirely.)
“Bastard” seems a bit of a personal piece and yet sometimes (when one truly listens) much of the work seems personal. Also included here is “Nothing for Free”. Yes, in a general sense you may have heard this before and yet like all of their influenced audios they manage to make each cut their own.
The closing cut is the somber song “Ninth Floor”. This is the longest track with a running time of over four minutes and listeners may be caught up in the reality of the story. Somehow this says movie soundtrack. See what you think. At any rate, it’s placed appropriately as the story involves a character coming to terms with the eminent end.
With a running time of over 47 minutes, the release is a musical mixture of anthems, ballads, good melodies, grinding guitar, solid bass and an ever-steady drum to keep it all together. It’s what the band calls “active, explosive rock”.
They reveal a broad range of influences that somehow all come together to create something new. One this is certain, once you’re introduced to Star Off Machine’s Burn This, you might not want to “Say Goodbye”. If you've never listened to Star Off Machine’s Burn This, listen to it. If you've already listened to it . . . listen again.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that's the bottom line.