We Are Star Children sounds like it’s from the ’80s. That statement could refer to an embrace of the decade’s frequent gaudiness, from Cyndi Lauper and other girls who just want to have fun to Men With Hats’ synthy bounce for safety. Or it could point towards the less pop-indulgent sounds of post-punk groups of the same period. It could even be touching on a more abstract youthful whimsy bubbling to the surface in those who came of age in the era of Pac-Man, Reagan and MTV. With Straight Punch to the Crotch’s debut album, all of the above applies.
|Listen to "When Animals Attack" from Straight Punch to the Crotch‘s We Are Star Children:
The local quintet is a fun-loving band, and Star Children picks up the carefree pop approach that seems to have dropped from the mainstream since the wave of seriousness brought on by ’90s grunge and gangsta rap. Tracks like “Robot Baby” and “Take Off All Your Clothes” simultaneously stick out their tongues and plant them firmly in their cheeks. Straight Punch steers clear of excessive cheese, but they realize getting a little goofy is better than leaning solely on angst, pining and heartbreak for inspiration.
Balanced against the comical slant that their name implies, Straight Punch also draws on a deeper stream of ’80s rock influences. “Summer Sun and Firecrackers,” a timely summer anthem, has the drive and jangly echo of the Bunnymen and R.E.M. The keyboard hooks and inflected vocals on songs like “When Animals Attack” and “Murder” recall the sonic wit of British rockers Felt and celebratory spazz of Talking Heads. The album even seeps a sensuality reminiscent of Prince, but hopefully not enough that he’ll try to sue them for it.
Hitting hard: Straight Punch to the Crotch delivers an impressive first blow with We Are Star Children.
Straight Punch is not stuck in the past or following some retro fad, though. The band keeps things fresh and new by riding a series of careful lines. Humor is delivered with a straight face. Cuteness is coupled with stories of methamphetamine and murder. Eighties-style flamboyance is held up with the period’s positive pop innovations. We Are Star Children, at nine songs, is a remarkably tight and composed effort. Of course, it’s impossible to capture flame-shooting keytars and a musical mannequin on a CD, so even though you should snag this album as soon as possible, a live show is a necessary part of getting the full impact of Straight Punch to the Crotch.
Straight Punch to the Crotch will perform during Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers’ match at Blue Moon Diner on June 10 and will celebrate the release of We Are Star Children with a show at Zinc on June 21.