It's been said that there is nothing new left to do in rock music.
There may or may not be any real truth to that assertion, but in any
event, it is a rare event to come across a band that truly sounds
original or revolutionary. Indeed, in many cases, bands with a certain
amount of success and notoriety still end up wearing their inspirations
on their sleeves like so many tattoos. And Norway's Cocktail Slippers
squarely fall into this latter category on their newest release, Saint
Valentine's Day Massacre. However, the leading lasses of Cocktail
Slippers never allow the derivative nature of their sound stand too
much in the way of creating what is ultimately a listenable, if somewhat
unmemorable, rock and roll record. The album is essentially a collection
of Junior Miss numbers about crushes and unrequited love, and
feels as if it were transported from 1963, even if the underlying
music owes more to a later time.
Some of the very elements that make Saint Valentine's Day Massacre
as derivative as it is are employed in such a high fashion that these
elements end up becoming strengths for the band. As an example, the
liberal use of 60s-style girl group harmonies, in a more modern context,
such as on "Don't Ever Leave Me" and standout track "You
Do Run", is equally reminiscent of The Chiffons as it
is the Go-Gos, and are executed near flawlessly. Some of the
songs themselves are really no more than first cousins of material
The Friggs were doing ten years ago, or that The Runaways
were doing thirty years back; but then, those are two pretty kickass
bands from which to draw your stylistic and songwriting lineage.
That said, some of the songs come off less well, notably the title
track, which was penned by erstwhile garage rock aficionado, rock
and roll legend, and all around good guy Steven Van Zandt.
Yup, that one. "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" really does
sound like it could have stepped out directly from the Asbury Park
70s heyday, and could pass for a Southside Johnny track, but
for the distaff vocals.
Still, the album does have a few strong tracks that should invite
repeated listens. In particular, the aforementioned "You Do Run"
pulsates and drives, and on its own, the chorus is the stuff from
which top-down boulevard-cruisin' summer hits emerge, perhaps with
the enduring Go-Go's track "Our Lips Our Sealed" as the
most direct reference point. "Love Me Back" is a tasty piece
of mid-tempo junior prom angst, replete with fuzz bass, hand claps,
and a passel of ooh-la-las. The cover of "In the City" is
another pleasing slice of 60s girl group nostalgia faithfully executed,
and a fun listen, to boot.
Ultimately, the album comes up as a bit of a wash, particularly when
listened to in the context of some of the great Scandanavian garage-ish
rock bands over the past decade, and doubly so when held up to artists
such as Sahara Hotnights. This is mostly attributable to the
simple fact that Cocktail Slippers simply don't rock out as hard as
some of their brethren. When they sing about wondering whether they're
still the girls "penciled in on your calendar", but asking
who will be "the last lover standing, come St. Valentine's Day",
it's easy to think they're more likely to shed tears about it during
a sleepover with the Pink Ladies, than to switchblade the object of
their romantic torment. The best parts of Saint Valentine's Day
Massacre are really quite enjoyable, even if they are a bit short
-David Meyer (mondogarage)
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