Velcro Stars have been playing the bars and clubs of Murfreesboro and Nashville since 2003, during which time they’ve changed their name (remember Velma vs. Daphne?), replaced multiple drummers and had their share of painfully bad shows. But they’ve played some swell ones, too, only Velcro Stars are most often completely at the mercy of their audience. An enthusiastic crowd eager to sing along in big, off-key choruses is the Stars’ best friend, but uninterested audiences often get an uninteresting version of the act. The band’s latest, Hiroshima’s Revenge, marks both their first full-length and their first real chance to prove that they can stand on their own 10 feet.
Co-released by Athens label Happy Happy Birthday to Me and Murfreesboro’s Grand Palace Records, Hiroshima’s fits right at home on the twee-pop leaning roster of the former. The meticulous craftsmanship of the album’s impressive artwork and packaging comes courtesy of the silkscreen faction of the latter.
The album opens with the band—Keith Pratt and Shane Spresser on guitar and vocals, Rebekah Spresser on keys and vocals, Danial Norman on bass and Andy Spore, who also plays with How I Became the Bomb, on drums—showing all their cards on “Same Everyday,” an up-tempo number with quirky vocals from all three vocalists, and a simple but inescapably catchy melody. That’s the formula for Hiroshima’s biggest successes, and there are several of them.
Live favorites “Cascade” and “B-Side of Love” make appearances, and neither disappoint with their big unison vocals. “Distraction,” a frenetic, power chord-driven rocker, breaks up the mild lull in the middle of the record with a healthy dose of volume and crunch. Given the rather provocative album title, you might expect angry political undertones, but “Distraction” is the only song with any such message. (“It’s just a distraction / We don’t love our enemies,” shouts Pratt. He’s talking about Bush, man!) The album’s gem is “Pavilion,” one of two songs on the record sung by Shane Spresser. Here the band revisit the mission statement set forth on “Same Everyday” with a chorus melody that perhaps surpasses anything the Stars have ever written, coupled with the record’s strongest vocal performance.
The record departs from the tried-and-true on “Hole in the Sky,” one of a handful of Hiroshima’s ballad excursions, only here a rather obnoxious organ part is given a bit too much face time. And the band’s twee-pop flirtations get the best of them on the overly sugary “All That I Do.” Where gleefully naive harmonies work elsewhere on the album, here they come across as more amateurish than endearing and don’t help to elevate the occasional sappy lyric, such as the trite “I hope all of your dreams / That they come true.”
But even with those missteps, Velcro Stars have crafted the record of which they’ve long hinted they’re capable. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally time for the Velcro Stars to start swimming in a bigger pond. —Matt Sullivan