Review Summary: Hardcore Superstar are probably the most naturally gifted of the major new sleaze bands, cherry-picking the best influences- Mötley Crüe, Hanoi Rocks and Faster Pussycat chief among them
You know those cheesyawesome rock bands like Spinal Tap or The Beets who tour the country/the world and proclaim every and any town the “rockinest town on the map” or something equally false? Yeah you do. Schmaltzing the crowd is all part of the show- Jon Bon Jovi is king, a Bon Jovi concert more closely resembles a colossal first date where the dude keeps telling you and 50,000 others what country you’re in than an actual rock concert- and sometimes merch sales depend on convincing the audience how unique they are. So yes, Tokyo, you do
rock harder than any other city. You too, Mount Sinai. Whatever. There’s one notable exception, though- in Gothenburg, they may just rock that bit harder than the rest of the globe.
The Swedes have always flouted convention. Ever since Viking times, when conventions weren’t worth the boulders they were hacked on, Swedes have done their own thing and to hell with the world. It’s reflected in their choice of music too; heavy rock is as popular as ever, power metal acts regularly scale the upper reaches of the singles charts- hell, Gothenburg gave its name to an entire death metal subgenre- and glam is occasionally cool. It’s no surprise then that Sweden is the capital of the second wave of sleaze metal, boasting internationally successful groups like Backyard Babies and Hellacopters as well as more flamboyant local acts along the lines of Crashdïet, Babylon Bombs and Gothernburg’s own Hardcore Superstar.
Hardcore Superstar are probably the most naturally gifted of the major new sleaze bands, starting out as a raw, under-produced garage rock/glam-punk outfit, but evolved to take in more metallic structures and sweet pop melodies without losing that aura of debauchery they captured so well early on. Epitomising in many ways the excesses and decadence of the late 80s Sunset Strip scene, they also benefit by operating outside of it, cherry-picking the best influences- Mötley Crüe, Hanoi Rocks and Faster Pussycat chief among them- and skipping out on the commercial business which destroyed so many bands of the era. Hardcore Superstar
, the group’s fourth official release (fifth including their long-deleted indie debut), comes on the heels of two relatively subdued, poppy releases, and sees the band recapture the spirit of their earlier efforts.
Jocke Berg is every bit the stereotypical rock n’ roll singer; at least playing the role of the wild boy vaginal journeyman, he’s care-free but sentimental whenever his journeys require it. Like a hybrid of Sebastian Bach, Alice Cooper and Taime Downe, he spits out each tune as if he’s angling to destroy his vocal chords before somebody else does. Guitarist Thomas Silver’s riffing style takes in proto-punk and thrash metal, while the rhythm section is tight as a nut, with Martin Sandvick playing Nikki Sixx to Adde Andreasson’s Tommy Lee. The dazzling array of backing vocalists (up to nine per song), meanwhile, reinforces the live, party atmosphere of an otherwise tightly produced CD; the chorus shouts recall early Skid Row, both in terms of forcefulness and overall importance in the mix, though Hardcore Superstar’s shouts are 100% reverb free. OK, maybe 95%.
As if to demonstrate the party-hardy nature of the album, each of the four hit singles is a backwards-glancing rocker; ‘We Don’t Celebrate Sundays’ outlines the band’s strict pro-Saturday Nights policy. The eponymous chorus betrays the group’s hardcore influences (as if their name didn’t) and the lyrics are playful, turning typical churchy images like wine and pews into party scenes, ending with the line ”my good church doesn’t open on Sundays!”
‘Wild Boys’ recalls Feelgood
-era Mötley Crüe and is at least a valiant attempt to oust Duran Duran as the band with the best song called ‘Wild Boys’ and ‘My Good Reputation’ is the poppiest of the bunch, bringing to mind the Crüe’s ‘Hell on High Heels.’ ‘Bag On Your Head’ is the best of the bunch, a Skid Row-esque rocker that features the tagline ”bag on your head- beautiful inside!”
and a finger-busting Slash-like solo.
Opener ‘Kick On The Upperclass’ sweeps in on top of an electronic intro theme, a punk number that states clearly ”the only one who cares about me is my own kind,”
‘Last Forever’ kicks off with a vintage Mick Mars riff while Jocke muses ”I want to make you bleed”
in his best Taime Downe screech, and ‘Hateful’ is an old-school metal number replete with range-defying Rob Halford-like wails. If the album dips in quality towards the end, as numbers like ‘Simple Man’ and ‘Cry Your Eyes Out’ forsake the immediacy of the earlier tracks for short-lived introspection, it doesn’t last; closing track ‘Standing On The Verge’ is unlike anything else in the band’s catalogue, recalling Led Zeppelin’s pioneering fusion of blues and English folk music, and ending the album on an unresolved sour note with Berg’s admission that he’s “standing on the verge of insanity.”
‘Standing On The Verge’ is a strange song to finish the album with; stylistically, it makes sense to finish a hard rock record on a sentimental note, if only to give a sense that an adventure of some sort is coming to an end, but it’s a depressing track that poses more questions rather than resolving anything. I can only compare to the end of the first Lord of the Rings
movie, more confounding than satisfying. On the other hand, Lord of the Rings
is three hours you’ll never get back; Hardcore Superstar
may stumble a couple of times, but it’s a satisfying, Peter Jackson-free listen.