[27 November 2006]
Welcome to the revolution
We are the army of underdogs
Welcome to the revolution
—Rock Star Supernova, “Underdog”
See, if Rock Star Supernova had a sense of humor, maybe it could have worked in a reference to the old ‘60s cartoon of the same name as the above ill-fated song, but none such reference happens. This is because Rock Star Supernova has no sense of humor, a fact driven home by every single one of the eleven songs on this, the band’s self-titled debut.
Granted, these guys have plenty of reasons to be bitter, as the show from which it draws its origins seems to have been star-crossed from the start. For one, there was the will-they-or-won’t-they flirtation with Van Halen, which obviously went nowhere. Next, there was the lawsuit over the band name “Supernova”, which the original Supernova (Let’s hear it for “Chewbacca”!) appears to be winning despite what is probably a totally inferior legal team, and while “Supernova” is kind of a silly band name in the first place, having to change their band name to “Rock Star Supernova” pretty much guaranteed that this band will be long dead before the second album. Now, Jason Newstead, the one musician that Rock Star Supernova brought to the table whose cred is hard to argue, went and busted up his shoulder and won’t be going on tour with the rest of these guys. This, then, leaves Tommy Lee, who has only really succeeded at Motley Crüe and unintentional amateur porn (excellent drummer or not), Gilby Clarke, whose most notable accomplishment is playing second fiddle to Slash on Guns ‘n’ Roses’ The Spaghetti Incident, and the “winner” of this little contest, one Lukas Rossi.
Rossi, for his part, does all right for himself on Rock Star Supernova, sounding something like a cross between Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland and Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace, with dashes of Axl Rose and Chad Kroeger thrown in for flavor. He sings on-key, mostly, he’s smoked enough to get the required amount of “grit” in his voice, and he fits enough of the rock star clichés to endear him to his bandmates (tats? wicked! mascara? bitchin’!). He fits right in.
Of course, it’s just this last that makes the supposed parody of a song like “Be Yourself (and 5 Other Clichés)” so unintentionally hilarious. As Rossi sings “So here’s your hey hey hey (HEY!) / And here’s your ho ho ho (HO!)... I’m sick of being haunted by every cliché that I know,” it’s hard to ignore just how many of those clichés he and the rest of the band he happens to be fronting fit into, particularly as he points it out over a fairly boring (if admittedly bouncy) rock ‘n roll track. I mean, if you want to prove to the world that you’re not a cliché, shouldn’t you be steering clear of songs with the old “CLAPCLAP… CLAP… repeat” beat that “Leave the Light On” and “Make No Mistake… This Is the Take” employ (and the aforementioned “Underdog” flirts with)? Shouldn’t you be singing about something other than girls, kicking ass, and how awesome you are?
A couple of songs do all right in their quest for something beyond the tired rock ‘n’ roll sound—the skewed verse of “Valentine” actually sounds inspired by Radiohead in its affinity for unexpected chord changes, and the “gospel choir” actually had me do a quick double-take at the beginning of “The Dead Parade”.
Still, there’s even a problem with those fleeting moments of creativity: They invariably devolve into the sub-radio fodder pap that mars every inch of the rest of the album—“Valentine” turns into something scraped off Guns ‘n’ Roses’ cutting room floor (I blame you, Gilby), and “The Dead Parade” is just another too-slow too-loud rock song with an overblown sense of drama. That’s the thing—it’s as if creativity happens accidentally, that the highest this band aspires to is something that fits their definition of “rock”, which apparently consists of hookless, distorted, unenthusiastic sludge. This isn’t music, it’s a paycheck. For your own good, stay far, far away.