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The Starved – Pretty Liar – Album Review

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Dark psychedelic rock records are few and far between these days, with Iggy Pop‘s latest and possibly final record slowing down similar records from both Queens Of The Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys, but for those looking a good fix of moody punk rock, Toronto’s The Starved can feed your hunger. Their debut EP Pretty Liar, even has touches of Pop, no doubt thank vocalist/bass player/producer Norelle French‘s time working with producer Mark Howard, who’s produced Pop before. This production quality permeates the album, on a record where sound takes the centre stage.

Mobious Crashed” opens the album on a dark surf-rock note, with reverb and distortion-laden guitars providing a moody background for the vocals. The song mixes parts “Secret Agent Man” and bands Cold Beat and Veronica Falls to create a mysterious feeling, emphasized with overdriven echoed vocals that close the album out. There’s an instant Iggy PopNightclubbing” feel to the drums that open “Pretty Liar,” but the song moves past that to a bass-chugging punk-blues track that pushes its attitude with distorted harmonies and heavy guitars. The song’s outro of “Fake” chants perfectly close with brutal anger.

The drums at the start of “Slaves Of Time” are sublime, and set the mood for the tracks cloudy mix of riffs and heavy bass. Vocal lines ring off catchy at every section of the song, and the band’s effortless ability to set the mood is at its strongest here. The song slowly evolves, adding choruses to empty riff sections and slowly cranking the suffocating bass up until it permeates every section of the track. “Past Tense” keeps the surprises coming, opening on an ear-catching drum and bass intro that finds the rhythm section stepping their game up, and a synth that suddenly appears but feels perfectly at home. The track mixes a dash of Misfits into the band’s sound matching their tone perfectly and their cover art even more, but the track never feels too derivative but more inspired and fun than anything else. One point however is the vocals of this track seem a lot less powerful after the punk-distorted vocals found earlier on the album, the vocals don’t sound bad by any stretch but after the tone set by the first half of the album, it feels out of place to suddenly remove the effect.

The distortion maxes out on “Baroque” that pushes this intense feeling even more with almost tympani sounding drums. The chants of “Get out of my way” are the catchiest of the album and beg for crowd chants live. The song’s classic punk rock feeling is completed with its similarly catchy chorus of belted lines, and stray guitar notes. The album closes with a slight EDM touch on “Ode To Gorey” which keeps its dark moody sound with its grimy guitars and heavy organs. The lyrics of the song pay homage to the titular Edward Gorey, with the deluge of alphabetically dying children referencing his “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” book. The track closes the album perfectly with the penetratingly dark effects creeping up through the song until it’s all you can hear.

Pretty Liar is a focused outing for The Starved, establishing their shadowy sound very clearly and having fun with the punk-rock that drives their attitude. While the inconsistently recorded nature of the vocals may be a bit disorienting the instrumentation is always top notch and listeners will be hard pressed to be bothered for long.