- Rock revival: Major Stars
If you're looking to see stars this week, your best bet is Howler's Coyote Café, in Bloomfield -- but not for its selection of intoxicants. On Tue., Nov. 27, that's where you'll find veteran Boston band Major Stars burning up the atmosphere with its firebrand of meteoric mega-rock.
Back in 1987, guitarist Wayne Rogers was a young vinyl fiend who had started his own label, Twisted Village, and opened a subterranean record shop in Cambridge's Harvard Square. He eventually met his match in guitarist Kate Biggar, and began jamming, first as Crystallized Movements. Backed by a hefty rhythm section, the pair eventually recorded Major Stars' aptly titled 1998 debut, Rock Revival, a rough-hewn assemblage of psyched-out skronk 'n' roll.
After their fourth album -- the also aptly titled 4 -- longtime drummer Dave Lynch up and vamoosed, and bassist Tom Leonard moved over to third guitar, leaving the band to fill a crucial void of rhythm. Casey Keenan of Beantown's most lovable power-poppers, Carlisle Sound, joined in on drums, and Dave Dougan, who'd served as the band's on-the-road apprentice, finally earned keep enough to take over on bass.
But this rebirth of Major Stars called for more than just your standard lineup change. Enter vocalist Sandra Barrett, former feral frontwoman for art-punk trio LA Drugs. Sexier than ever, the sextet eventually caught the ear of Drag City Records, the label that just put out Major Stars' latest wrecking ball, Mirror/Messenger.
On the new album, Keenan crashes away, riding bareback over the cymbals while Rogers and Biggar uncork the awesome, spewing dual treble damage for an epic freak-out. Syrupy and sinister, Barrett's vocals ground the tones in lusty rock sentiments, complementing the band's sonic energies with her sly verbiage. "Hercules" delivers a bone-crunching tonal breakdown that almost sounds like Comets on Fire set to flames or Demon's Claws re-clawed with sharper metal. As is Major Stars' tradition, the album concludes with a double exposure of rock in its natural element: the unadulterated jam session.
A fitting send-off, the title track's ultimate free-for-all reveals how Rogers and Biggar found each other in the first place: a penchant for improvisation that has also earned the two guitarists a critical reputation as self-indulgent rockers.
But that's just bullshit. Rock 'n' roll is, in and of its own damn self, an indulgence for everyone involved, so why shouldn't Major Stars shred crazy licks? On his label's Web site, Rogers responds: "Major Stars aim to take higher-key improvisational wizardry and clobber you on the head with it while simultaneously caressing your mind." So, if you're tired of playing Guitar Hero or chugging Sparks to achieve this effect, take a break and indulge yourself. Come and see Major Stars jam the "self" right out of your consciousness.
Major Stars with Italian Ice and Tusk Lord. 8 p.m. Tue., Nov. 27. Howler's Coyote Café, 4509 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. $7. 412-682-0320