Starbenders - 'Take Back The Night' Album Review
1. The Game
3. Body Talk
4. We’re Not OK
5. Cherry Wine
6. Seven White Horses
7. The End is Near
8. Blood Moon
9. If You Need It
13. Say You Will
Songs from this album started coming out last year and immediately stoked my interest for a full-length album. While this Georgia based band has been around for about 10 years and have released two previous albums and assorted EPs, this album is my first real exploration into them as previous songs at the time didn’t connect with me when I heard them. Based on my experience with this album, I have some revisiting to do as the Starbenders have delivered an excellent third album that should continue to expand their audience.
Pulling influences from 80’s hair metal, rock, and pop, the band utilize these ingredients with their own unique injection of creativity to spawn an original sound that feels both familiar and innovative across these 13 songs. ‘The Game’ begins with a mix of electric and acoustic guitars that sets up a rocker with a big hook and some clever lyrics with my favorite being “ain’t no use in burning witches, when we die, we’re twice as vicious.” Lead singer (also guitar) Kimi Shelter has a great voice that contains a slight rasp which gives songs extra grit when needed but also has a smoothness to it as well. The backing vocals are not over the top in the mix but extremely well done and catchy. Some electronic elements introduce ‘Sex” where the band remain in up tempo mode with some effects used on Shelter’s vocals. Lyrically, the band is not breaking any new ground here, and this was the only early release song that initially struggled to grab me. A cool guitar riff and some vocals filled with attitude fuel ‘Body Talk,’ which was another early release song. This one grabbed me right away and has remained a favorite. While there is a strong 80’s hair metal feel, the twists in some of the backing vocals and the song’s structure through the guitar solo feel very different, giving the song a unique feel.
‘We’re Not OK’ would likely be my overall favorite song on the album and showcases a significant twist compared to the first quarter of the album and showcases some of the variety we will find over the rest of the album. Starting with the hunting melody of the chorus, the song slows down and presents a totally different type of approach where listeners might expect a ballad. This is a midtempo song that contains some heaviness with the bass and drums sounding like they are coming undone at times. Lyrically, this one is a standout for me and showcases one reason why the Starbenders are special. Acoustic guitars usher in ‘Cherry Wine’ which feels much more influenced by the pop world with a chorus full of lush melodies. Some electric guitars underneath though give the song a rougher feel more akin to alternative artists. It also demonstrates that the Starbenders are not going to be boxed into a genre. Another one of my favorites from the album follows with ‘Seven White Horses’ being the song that made me take notice last year when it was released as a single. It starts with a great guitar riff and adds in some killer vocal lines in the verse before Shelter’s vocals demonstrate a ton of musical diversity. The hook in the chorus is huge and not filled with backing vocals. There is a melodic melody that drifts in and out of the mix throughout the song. I can’t imagine how many times I have heard this song over the past year, and I still feel like I hear new things in it.
The band put their foot on the accelerator again at the midpoint with ‘The End is Near.’ This one serves as a fairly straight-ahead rocker and has not been a song that has really grabbed me yet. It doesn’t help that it follows one of my favorites from the album and comes right before another one. The beginning to ‘Blood Moon’ though is tremendous as the guitar riff feels like it could have been pulled from another dimension’s ‘Shout at the Devil’ era Motley Crue. The vocal approach utilized here changes tact as well with a fist in the air verse leading to a singalong shouting chorus. The guitar riff feels fresh every time it comes back into the spotlight. ‘If You Need It’ returns to a more melodic approach and functions as a new take on what could have been delivered as a power ballad. The song maintains some muscle from the start and transitions to a big chorus hook after a catchy pre-chorus. The song continues to build and really creates some intensity. They transition back to another melodic rocker in ‘Marianne,’ where they utilize another catchy chorus in a song that reminds me a bit of Pat Benatar. I hope this is one that gets played live and doesn’t end up stuck as an underappreciated album track.
The final quarter of the album begins with the band covering Alice Cooper’s ‘Poison.’ While I can definitely see where he has provided influences to the band’s sound and look, I am not blown away by the cover, and it feels unneeded on an album with 13 songs. ‘Midnight’ provides a bounce back for me with the band connecting on another solid rocker with a catchy chorus that highlights the band’s originality in their sound. Closing out the album, ‘Say You Will’ demonstrates another side of the band again with some of the pop and rock influences from the 80’s being twisted through the Starbenders originality to close out the album with a huge song that oozes style and substance.
With songs stretched back to 2022, this album has been a long time coming, but the older songs still feel very fresh and fit into the context of the album. While the album has a couple ups and downs for my tastes, it remains highly enjoyable and one of the better rock albums that has been released this year. I anticipate it will receive many more plays before the end of this year and likely ends up in my top albums of the year, but it is too soon to say if that means top 10, 15, or 20. Regardless, I encourage you to check it out and start singing along to some excellent songs.
‘Take Back the Night’ is released on September 22nd.
‘Seven White Horses’ video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9xDzu8MqzU
‘We’re Not OK’ video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuAJpwaHpa4
‘Blood Moon’ video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obBlXA_RHJg
Website - https://www.starbenders.com/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/starbenders
Review - Gerald Stansbury