Starcrawler’s self-titled 2018 debut channeled all kinds of sidewalk grit, teetering just over the gutter with slashing guitar chords and Arrow de Wilde’s vocals that trilled, thrilled, and shredded anything in their path. It was the sound of a young band finding their way while firmly committed to making a sound all their own. There was a lot of their garage rack DNA, a touch of glam presentation, and a whole lotta Iggy and the Stooges abandon and attitude. It was a mess, in all the right ways, and it was exciting.
On this year’s follow up, Devour You, the band sharpened the songs and uncovered a pop bent that has buried in their previous work. It’s not like they just brushed off the grime to reveal shinier tunes, they took their wild musical thrash and bent it to their will to create basement anthems that would go over well in the mainstream, but were meant for the misfits and outcasts. If the first album was an explosion, Devour You was a focused beam, ready to take out anything its path.
I was curious how these two sides of Starcrawler would blend when they played Lincoln Hall last week, and it’s clear that wild abandon remains their musical cue, even as de Wilde forces her way against the onslaught with a theatric approach, imposing her will to funnel the music through the focal point she created. Visually, de Wilde comes across as a Tim Burton animation come to life, all twitching and thrashing. At times she seemed to bend time as her actions sped and slowed, creating a visual blurriness that entranced. Her vocals seemed to tear through her throat from the pit of her stomach, and it was difficult to experience the result as anything other than a primal thrill.
Counterbalancing her performance was guitarist Henri Cash, who whirred and twirled around the stage, amiably mugging it up for the intimate crowd. His fingers picked and tore through blasts of chord feedback while laying single note leads over top the ruckus. And my eyes may have been tricking me, but I swear his guitars were custom stripped down to three strings a piece, which Mae the massive noise even more impressive. That was some kinda dark magic, I tell you.
The set was more or less evenly pulled from both of the band’s full length albums, and while the polished pop of Devour You occasionally took over the instrumental melee—particularly on the dark, broken glass disco of “You Dig Yours”—the band allowed their more chaotic tendencies to nip away at the edges of the performance. In other words, anyone afraid the band had lost their edge amidst the focus of the latest batch of tunes needn’t have worried. Starcrawler is still more interested in slashing and burning everything in their path, and more than happy if you want to tag along for the thrill ride.