(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, May 28, 2010

CD review - Semi Precious Weapons, You Love You (2010)

Whatever happened to glam rock? The excess, the androgyny, the theatrical camp? Semi Precious Weapons whips out all of this and more. They're not so much snotty boys with guitars as bitchy boys with hard rock guitars. Lead singer Justin Tranter is an audacious bundle of attitude, but the rest of the band is equally cocky and brash. Their guitar sound is meaty and rocking, like AC/DC or some other primal rock band. Tranter's vocals can evoke Bowie or Simon Le Bon (Duran Duran), but sometimes you can also hear a touch of classical training.

You can tell that Semi Precious Weapons carefully crafts their songs for audience appeal, almost more than making any other point. The songs are packed with hooks and the lyrics stick in your brain immediately. Nowhere is this more clear than the eponymous opener, Semi Precious Weapons: "I can't pay my rent, but I'm fucking gorgeous!" This is cock rock at its finest -- strutting blues rock riffs, an AC/DC grind, and a punk glam vocal aesthetic.

Another strong song, Rock and Roll Never Looked So Beautiful, starts out with the intro riff from Golden Earring's Radar Love. The first verse is stripped down, but the chorus slides into a Bon Jovi hard rock drive. There's a drifting section:
Sometimes I cry cause it makes my eyes look bluer
Sometimes I bleed cause red is a good color for me...yes!...
This slams us into a ripping lead that builds a perfect tension before laying out a tenet of their filthy glamour philosophy:
Put me in a see through coffin
Stuff me up with mink stoll stuffing
Put me in a crystal casket
Before they mix diamonds into my ashes
Dance around my body
Just cause I'm dead, don't kill the party
This live version skips the Radar Love, but it gives you a sense of the Semi Precious Weapons experience.

You Love You isn't just glam-soaked rock, though. Leave Your Pretty To Me is a straight up heavy ballad that shows off Tranter's strong trained voice. A fair chunk of the music is a lift of Pachelbel's Canon in D, but a song like this is all about the lyrics and the mood. The words are catchy:
The only thing that ever came easy/ to her, was me (and tragedy)
So girl, go ahead and drink, I can only be so many things
Girl, go ahead and drink, I can only be so many things
But when you leave, please,
Leave your pretty to me.
They follow the standard hard rock ballad form: slow start, minor build, strip back, then build to full intensity. It's a sad, pretty song of dissolution.

There are plenty of other gems here. You Love You is due to hit the record stores June 22. In the meantime, they're opening for Lady Gaga's Monster Ball Tour.

Semi Precious Weapons is a demanding, challenging band -- little like my dad's Galliano. But not straight up, instead have a flaming Lamborghini. That should be enough filthy glamour for anyone.

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