On Hard Starward, Variac does Detroit proud by bringing together the grit of hard desert rockers the Queens of the Stone Age with the dreamy repetition of shoegazers My Bloody Valentine to craft an album of unified psychedelia that looks to both the '70s and the early '90s for inspiration. Like My Bloody Valentine's brilliant Loveless, Hard Starward is almost too consistent for the band's own good, and less adventurous listeners may be dismayed by the skyward jams that run from one track to the next. But Variac has spent time opening for the likes of the Smashing Pumpkins, and though the band lacks the Pumpkins' ability (circa Siamese Dream) for the slight turn of phrase and stripped-down nostalgia, the material on Hard Starward really resonates when written with an ear for the big, arena rock concert. The album drags a bit with the quiet meandering trio of "Twelveight," "Rocket Sam," and "Sister Satellite," but "Big Davis" deftly slides from a hush to large-scale destruction, "It Always Is" unleashes a disturbed anger, and "Steadfast" closes the album with broad strokes. The cleverly named "Sherilyn Fenn-Phen" is without a doubt the catchiest track on the disc, evoking the grandiosity of Richard Ashcroft's solo work. And while Variac is not as earth-shattering a band as the Verve, Hard Starward certainly shows a lot of potential.
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AllMusic Review by Charles Spano