Star Period Star – “Can’t See The Forest” (Audible Cropcircle 2013, CD)

I’ll be darned, after 15 years we’ve got a new album from Star Period Star. Their last album – Jet Propulsion Mystery Summer – was released in 1998 and really bowled me over. My review in AI #7 made references to Massacre, Dr Nerve, Thinking Plague, Cheer Accident, King Crimson, and I even threw in a comment about “Sex Pistols acid kosmiche”. The band were an Illinois based trio, though the current lineup only includes one of them, Dan Sweigert (guitars, bass, keyboards, bamboo flute, percussion and vocals), who has since relocated to South Carolina. New members include Joe Colone on bass, Pat Hamilton on keyboards, guitar and backing vocals, and Dan VanSchindel on drums and backing vocals. The only names from the last album are guests Ron Jagielnik on autoharp and treatments and Mike Sary (remember French TV?!) on fretless bass.

The set opens with Survivorman, a high energy and somewhat whimsical progressive rocker, with both organ and classic prog keyboards, and some fairly monstrous drumming. And ya gotta love lyrics like, “It took the whole day to boil the putrid water with a microscope.” Snares conjured up thoughts of the Residents collaborating with Magma for a heavy rockin’ Zheul-fest. Looking For You is one of the more overtly prog rock oriented songs, but it also has a bit of that avant-punk energy that I enjoyed so much on Jet Propulsion Mystery Summer, and there’s a swingin’ organ-led segment that’s good fun as well. I like the off-kilter rocking and quirkily accessible Synesthesia, which has a cool eerie alien synth line in the middle. I’m Into Miracles starts off as a pleasantly melodic acoustic led song, but near the 6 minute mark it shifts gears and rocks hard in prog-punk land, with some killer flashy screaming guitar and we’re treated to some disorienting rhythmic gymnastics. The title of the next song is a symbol… ( .. ) and is an instrumental that sounds like a tribute to Roger Trigaux’s Present. A Means To An End starts off as an accessible melodic rocker, but nothing sits still for long with these guys as they take off on an inspired prog gone acid-rock infused instrumental jam. And the album closes with an untitled bit of sparse experimental noodling.

Can’t See The Forest isn’t too far off from the last album, though I wouldn’t make most of the band analogies that I did then. Star Period Star have an oxymoronic flair for whimsical intensity that gives their music a distinct character, and despite my multiple references to progressive rock, there’s a raw edge and unpolished charm to the music that begs the question as to whether garage-prog is a genre. I might not like it as much as Jet Propulsion Mystery Summer, but with fewer analogies than I was able to identify on the previous album, Can’t See The Forest may well be further outside the box.

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Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

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