MIRROR, SIGNAL, MANOUEVRE - Starky (Laughing Outlaw)
Never heard the predecessor but Starky's first single for Laughing Outlaw exploded out of the CD player like a sonic bomb sometime in early 2003. "That's How I'll Know" was a perfect piece of guitar pop. Six months later, the follow-up long player is here and it's no less impressive.

Starky are a four-piece from southern Sydney who've been kicking around since late 1999. Like many Oz bands playing guitar-powered pop, they're probably better known in some places overseas than their own backyard (Starky's chalked up two US visits already), although exposure via cable TV's Channel V and on Triple Jay might have redressed that of late. If the album title is a play on them being under instruction when in the studio, I'm all for bypasisng their L plates and fast-tracking them straight to gold licences. This is great by most measures.

Beau Cassidy has a strong, appealing voice that can stretch out at the right time ("Get Up"). His guitar work and that of David Simons is strong and big on dynamics. The engine room of Nick Neal (bass) and Graeme Trewin (drums) thump like young guys on a misison. Cassidy is the main songwriter and writes a neat lyric if you use a magnifiying glass to read the microscopic print on the CD slick (must be a young man's trick on us old guys) or listen hard enough.

You get 11 tracks on "Mirror..." and there's not a clunker among them. The killer single "That's How I'll Know" and another previously released cut, "Complicator", have been re-recorded, and now boast a big beefy, bottom end. The re-tooled "That's How I'll Know" (tracked in one take) took a few spins to get used to but I'm now leaning in favour of the bigger sound. Prior to his European sourjourn with Radio Birdman, co-producer Rob Younger (co-credited with Wayne Connolly) was regarding this as one of his best efforts. The whole album came together in nine days at Velvet Sound in Sydney and the spontaneity is intact.

While it's tempting to draw a parallel between the titles of "City Prison Doors" and "Jail Guitar Doors", I was sniffing a gentle whiff of the Clash before I even saw the track listing. Ditto the vocal in the verse on the hooky "Girl Talk". (At least I hope it's the Clash and not those pale imitators Rancid. I might be totally off the mark anyway). Nowhere as raw but striving for similar energy levels as Joe and Co, Starky very definitely recall the best of the Happy Hate Me Nots (one of the most underrated bands on the Australian circuit in the late '80s and early '90s).

It seems everyone staking this guitar-pop turf has to have a mid-album ballad and "Tabards" fulfills that role but it's the uptempo cuts like the sparkling "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning" and "Breakdance Glove" (a tribute to Jam Jay Master Jay - run that past me again?) that win the day. "Mirror, Signal, Manouevre" mines a crowded vein but is punchy enough an effort to stand out from the crowd. It's an album that doesn't wear out its welcome and will hold up to repeated playings.
- The Barman



THAT'S HOW I'LL KNOW YOU - Starky (Laughing Outlaw)
A rush of guitars and Beau Cassidy's plaintive vocals kick in; by the first turn you realise you're listening to a goodie. Come the home straight and if you have ears you'll be reaching for the repeat button. It's that good.

A guitar blast that streaks past the winning post in three-and-a-half minutes, with the great Wayne Connolly applying the production whip (so you know it sounds good). Sydney four-piece Starky are as brash as guitar pop comes, with a nice heavy hand. "That's How I'll Know You" is an absolute balls-out, stand-out but the downcast pop rumble of "Don't Wanna Know" isn't far behind in the killer song stakes. They've both graced recent compilations that that have mertited airtime at the Bar. Shit, the other track "Complicator", with chunky counterpoint guitars, ain't no slouch either.

That's right; you only get three tracks. It's a CD-single. But the songs - they're all good 'uns, all tuneful guitar hooks and not unlike Teenage Fanclub.

The back story: Starky contain half of Pennidredful, a pop-rock act from southern Sydney who put a few things out on the latter-day Phantom label. Starky have a claim to fame in that they were supported at the old Iron Duke Hotel in Sydney by The Vines (who got their first-ever encore at that show, which was one of the few gigs they played before fame found them).

Here's hoping Starky will be stayers. This is their second single and an album is imminent. A US tour, airplay in their home country as well as France and Japan under the belt. It's a hard world to get a break in but given an even, dry track you just never know. - The Barman