HARDCORE SUPERSTAR – HCSS

Hardcore Superstar - HCSSI remember back in the mid 90’s, as a hard rock lover things had been going down hill for a while. Everything I loved about music and hard rock / metal had been destroyed by this thing called grunge, a genre that tried its hardest to kill everything that was fun with music. Grunge thought that the world was a shitty place and that the music should mirror that, instead of the other way around. If the world is grey. what you need is fun and smiles and just for a while take the mind off all the crap that’s going on. Grunge reminded us of all things depressive instead. When grunge had had its hey day and had become mainstream, another growth had started to suck the little life that was left from the hard rock scene – nu metal. Nu-metal was even worse and things didn’t look bright at all. All of a sudden this band showed up, a band that looked nothing like the dull grungers or the hip-hoppers that were nu-metal, no these guys looked like rock bands did in the golden ages. I heard people talk about this band and how musically they were more or less back in 1987 and the sleaze scene that went on parallel with the pop-metal scene. Their name – Hardcore Superstar. It was 1999 and they had just released their debut album Bad Sneakers And A Pina Colada. (Well, that album was actually their second, the band’s first album was called It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll  and came out in 1997, but no one really knew about it. Besides, the two albums had more or less identical songs on them). Anyway, the album spawned a hit single, “Someone Special” and I thought the song was good enough so I borrowed the CD from a friend to see if the fuss was anything to go by. Unfortunately, the album left me underwhelmed and so did the follow-up Thank You (For Letting Us Be Ourselves) (2001) and I lost interest in the band. The sound I heard wasn’t at all that dirty hard rock, but more a garage rock sound, noisy and without structure. When the band split up after 2003’s No Regrets, I thought they already had call it quits. So much for bringing dirty rock ‘n roll back. The irony of the whole story is that it was just what Hardcore Superstar did in the end. They brought dirty, sleazy rock ‘n roll back. And then some! Because, see, the boys couldn’t hold themselves so they had to reunite only two years after the split and they did come back with a vengeance. Their new album was self titled and the cover was all black – this was Hardcore Superstar’s black album and today it is looked upon as a classic – and known as The Black Album… It also showed that Hardcore Superstar had found a new sound, a sound full of piss ‘n’ vinegar, balls and attitude – a sound that would follow them, with only some minor changes up until now. Album by album, the band redefined their sound and their last albums has shown the band taken their music to new highs. But prior to the release of their new album, signs that everything wasn’t right had reared their ugly heads. The band was talking about going back to the sound of their old days and unfortunately, the singles released prior to the album told us that really was the case…

The first time I heard the single “Glue”, I thought the band was joking. The song is worthless – that’s the only word I can think of. Sure, it has a groove and everything, but the alternative garage rock sound doesn’t work at all and the whole tune just feels confused with no structure at all. Things would only improve slightly when the second single, “Touch The Sky” was released. Featuring reggae artist Etzia on vocals, the song has a distorted bass and a rhythm that reminds me off old hard rock / punk / garage bands like MC5 and Blue Cheer combined with a pretty classic Hardcore Superstar melody. Not my bag at all and no, I don’t think it works one bit. Let’s just say that my expectations for this album had lowered quite the bit by listening to the two singles. The album opens with “Don’t Mean Shit” and it’s an ok song. It has a really good melody, but the production sounds like a garage rock song and the song sounds like an unfinished demo. “Party ‘Til I’m Done”, however, is really good. The rough MC5 influenced 60’s hard rock sound works well on this song as the most of it sounds like classic Hardcore Superstar to these ears. “The Cemetery” has a killer chorus and all would be well there if the rest of the song wasn’t completely forgettable. But I do dig “Off With Their Heads”. The song has a cool, funky bass line and the rhythm is actually close to dance music, but the song rocks hard and the chorus is magnificent. But with “Fly” we hit the ground again. It’s a weird and spacey, hippie-like rock ballad of some kind, that goes nowhere. I find “The Ocean” pretty cool, though. The main riff reminds me of Crashdiet, but there’s an old, weird kind of pop arrangement mixed with a raspy garage rock sound, but it works on the song. The best song on the record is – without any hesitation – “Growing Old”. The tune has a classic Hardcore Superstar groove and melody and is both aggressive and catchy. That’s more like it, boys. The album ends with “Messed Up For Sure” and that title sums the song up pretty well. That title actually sums the whole record up. Messy is the key word here, both in production and in song structure. I would like to add noisy as well.

Let me just start with saying that I’m all for experimenting and going your own way, being totally creative in every way. I’m all for ignoring what people say and just follow your heart and your vision and go for broke. However, I can’t for the world see why someone wants to retry a route that has already failed once before. Yes, the talk of the band going back to their early sound turned out to be true, sadly enough. I could have bought the deal if the sound was the only thing they went back to, but unfortunately, they have gone back to the old ways of writing songs as well, leaving everything that made the band so successful behind. yes, there still are traces of the band’s most successful years in here, especially in the way they write melodies and yes, there are some really good songs on this album, but everything else is gone. As I pointed out, the sound is a mess and it’s really noisy, lacks direction and structure and the whole project sounds confused, unfocused and frankly, the whole thing sounds unfinished – like they just cut a demo and released it as an album. The songs are also simple – and I have no problem with simple songs, The Rolling Stones made a career out of those – but this is not simple in a good way. I don’t know, maybe the songs will get a life of their own when played live, but this record is really disappointing. From their black reunion album, the band has been taking one step further ahead with each release, the underwhelming Beg For It (2009) exempt, but with their brilliant Tobias Lindell (Mustasch, H.E.A.T., Europe, Nubian Rose) produced Split Your Lip (2010) and their awesome self-produced C’mon Take On Me (2013), the band was on a upgoing spiral that I thought could take them everywhere. That upgoing spiral ended with this debacle. Hopefully, this is just something they had to get out of their bodies and that they will return to greatness with the next release. But this just don’t cut it. Back to the drawing table.

Jon Wilmenius (5/10)

Tracklist:

1. Don’t Mean Shit
2. Party ‘Til I’m Gone
3. The Cemetery
4. Off With Their Heads
5. Fly
6. The Ocean
7. Touch The Sky
8. Growing Old
9. Glue
10. Messed Up For Sure

 

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