Street Legal

Bite the Bullet

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Although many music historians are quick to dismiss it as a "lost decade" for rock & roll, mired in excessive studio gimmickry and synthesized commercialism, the '80s still gave birth to an astonishing array of great music and left its mark on innumerable future bands like, for example, Norway's Street Legal. The group's year 2000 debut album, Thunderdome, was flagrantly steeped in '80s-flavored hard rock, and their belated 2009 sophomore effort, Bite the Bullet, also follows suit, with a strong selection of songs featuring equal measures of hard riffing tenacity and hook-laden choruses -- arguably catchy enough for radio, yet quirky enough in a Euro sense to entice fans of everything from Europe to Whitesnake. In fact, shades of the still paunchy-and-mustachioed, pre-peroxide Whitesnake definitely inform the clever rocker "Somebody Up there Likes Me," and the post-peroxide version also makes an appearance during sultry ballads "Shadow of My Heart" and "Silent Tear" (seriously, throw Tawny Kitaen into the video and nothing's missing). Crossing the Atlantic, now, both the title track and "Starship Trooper" recall the Skyscraper-era David Lee Roth band, with their angular riffs, feigned Vai-sized guitar heroics, and smooth, smooth finish; and a (possibly) non-ironic cover of "Maniac" -- Michael Sembello's smash hit from the Flashdance soundtrack -- epitomizes the peak of Street Legal's shameless '80s worship. It's not half bad, either! But perhaps the real ace in Street Legal's inspirational deck is the one revealed by third track "Unconditional Love," when singer/bassist Bjorn Boge abruptly transforms himself into Philip Lynott, of Thin Lizzy! From his tough-as-leather, cool-as-ice, husky-voiced delivery, to the song's mid-paced swagger and twin-guitar harmonies, the Lizzy aesthetic -- '80s version, naturally -- is replicated to such perfection, that one could care less if it's derivative. Nor that it is subsequently revisited by other evocative numbers like "Warriors of Genghis Kahn" (which sounds like a Chinatown outtake, at times), and the instrumental "Battle of Kringen," which references Lizzy's Gaelic anthems like "Black Rose" and "Emerald." Of course the cynics will surely still claim that it's merely the passage of time that makes the heart grow fonder for these admittedly dated '80s sounds, so often reviled and ridiculed, but, come on -- life's too short -- and only the most jaded graying hard rock fans could possibly resist Street Legal's infectious nostalgic adventure on Bite the Bullet.