Sean Yseult and Dave She Wolf are not exactly newcomers, the former being from White Zombie and the latter being from Cycle Sluts From Hell, but Star & Dagger are very much a new entity. They’ve been joined by vocalist Von Hesseling on this debut LP, Tomorrowland Blues, and with the added assistance of Dave Catching and Gene Trautmann (they’ve both worked with Queens Of The Stone Age and Eagles Of Death Metal), this sounded like an enticing prospect.
Sadly, what seems great on paper doesn’t exactly sound nearly as good in practice. This is a straight-up rock album that whizzes by in the space of just over half-an-hour. In My Blood wastes no time in setting the scene with its beefy basslines and crunching guitars but, much like the tracks that follow, it’s unremarkable. End Of Days is energetic but not particularly engrossing and Freak Train ought to be more rousing than it actually is. The tempo changes significantly for the thuddering Selling My Things but it drags on to the point where it outstays its welcome.
Its second half doesn’t fare much better. Sidewinding starts with a promising bass riff and crashing drums but it doesn’t build. Following another slow one, the forgettable Before It’s A Crime, comes the double salvo of Your Money and Used To Me: dull rehashes of the early ’90s grunge era.
It’s only at the very end where suddenly all the pieces come together. Your Mama Was A Grifter is a groovy, bluesy romp that catches your attention almost immediately. It’s arguably the only track that drifts from the default aesthetic on Tomorrowland Blues and it’s telling that it happens to be the most successful tune.
Away from the songs themselves, there are signs Star & Dagger have the makings of a good band. There are moments where the musicianship is to be admired (the pummelling introduction to End Of Days and the wailing guitars in Your Mama Was A Grifter) and it’s a crying shame that Hesseling’s excellent vocal performances are wasted on lacklustre songcraft. She has a commanding presence that rises above everything else.
But Tomorrowland Blues, for all its bluster, is a fair-to-middling rock album that doesn’t really offer anything new to the party. It might sound dirty and raw but the songs are are pretty basic and unlikely to light a fire in your belly. Yet when they take risks they are a lot more interesting; more experimentation might be the way forward if Star & Dagger are to blaze a path of glory – as well as some sharper and hard-hitting tunes.