One of last year’s late releases that may have slipped under the radar as you hurtled headlong into the holly-holidays, was Separate Sides, the debut offering from Star Circus. To discover more, MetalTalk despatched one of its roving contributors into the ring to see for themselves.
Giffard Arms, Wolverhampton – 11 March 2023
Words: Sophie James
Photography: Ruskin Roader Photography
Saturday evening saw a welcome return to Wolverhampton for Star Circus but this time in a co-headlining capacity. With a cracking new album under their belts, a new drummer, plus the addition of a keyboard player/guitarist, there is quite a bit to be getting along with there for sure.
Possessing an eclectic range of influences stretching from classic hard rock, through AOR, ’80s Glam Metal, ’90s American power pop, heavy funk and post-grunge, these fuse faultlessly to form a sound that is stacked full of infectious melodies, grandiose vocal and instrumental harmonies plus colossally catchy choruses. It is this musical melting pot that makes Star Circus so fascinating.
As per the album, things kicked off with Save Your Life and its wonderfully quirky riff. It was immediately apparent that the addition of keyboardist William Robertson was paying dividends, with a fuller, more dynamic sound. Straight-ahead rocker Times Get Tough saw them settle into their groove. Penned during Lockdown, this rejoices in getting ‘back out there’.
Introduced as a song about growing up in the ’90s certainly explained the sound and feel of Something. The verse makes you want to dance like there is no one watching which is then punctuated by another of their huge trademark choruses. Segueing seamlessly into Just Like in a Movie, a finger-clicking funky shuffle that more than tips its hat to a traditional tale of “getting chocolate stains on my pants”. Regardless of comparisons, this stands on its own merit and is an impeccable example of the band’s capabilities.
Circles and Bridges are just so fabulously constructed. Speaking personally, I take great enjoyment in identifying musical influences, especially among rising artists. Such is the adeptness in the songwriting, many of these are ‘blink, and you’ll miss it’ moments as the arrangement then swings in another direction.
Wall Around Your Heart sees us initially return stylistically to Something territory before concluding in lavish AOR fashion with some extended dual guitar harmonies thrown in for good measure.
The very first single, Love Is The Enemy, is a rousing recollection of bitter experiences which precede Before The Song Is Over, which rather appropriately brings the evening to a conclusion.
It is no exaggeration to say that each number is a musical journey. Not as excessive as, say, prog but at a level that draws the listener in and maintains their attention. Returning briefly to the album, even after repeated listens, one discovers something new in each play.
Singer/guitarist Dave Winkler and six-string sidekick Jon Crampton work so well as a team. Guitar harmonies aside, Jon shines in the traditional solo slots, with Dave usually following up with the second solo or atop the coda. Sophie is just so assured on bass, driving things along fluently as well as providing most of the vocal harmonies.
The efforts of new drummer Rick Rose should also be noted. Hailing from Toronto, Rick is on secondment from NYC outfit X-Ray Love who have relocated to London, and this was only his second outing with the band.
As the group tours more and the new members settle in, I fully expect them to become even slicker. One also hopes that their music can be exposed to a wider audience as it certainly has an accessibility that can, for want of a better term, generate more ‘mainstream appeal’.