Rock Star Supernova

Rock Star Supernova

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In retrospect, it should have been obvious that the prefab supergroup Rock Star Supernova -- originally just "Supernova" before an older band of the same name won its injunction against them, so their name became a clumsy compound of the name of their reality TV show and their chosen name -- would choose wannabe goth superstar Lukas Rossi as their singer. Really, there was no other choice: as good as Storm Large looked naked and as powerful as Dilana was on-stage, there was no way that a group awkwardly led by a disinterested Tommy Lee would choose a female as a singer, and even if Toby Rand had the best original song, he was too much of a party-hearty frat boy to fit in with the rest of the crew (plus, he was Australian and Lee had already gotten enough mileage out of his Crocodile Dundee impression, which started to look a little tacky around the time of Steve Irwin's death, anyway). So, it was down to Rossi, the heavily made-up runt who carried the weight of the world on his shoulders as only a former Hooters line cook could, since he was perhaps the most modern rocker in the lineup. At the very least, with his complicated hair and pancake mascara, he could be mistaken for a Gerard Way wannabe, giving this group of fortysomething rock & rollers at least the façade of appealing to teenagers. But that's just a charade, really: despite a song called "The Dead Parade" -- which just happens to arrive a few weeks after My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade -- there's no modern rock here, but Rock Star Supernova hardly sounds like the heavy work of the drummer from L.A. sleaze-rock legends Mötley Crüe, Izzy Stradlin's replacement in Guns N' Roses, and the bassist for Metallica. Although Lee's drums thunder as Gilby Clarke eases out bloozy riffs while Jason Newsted pins the whole thing down, this doesn't sound at all like any of their previous music: it sounds like metal guys trying to sound like Cheap Trick covering T. Rex. Which means it sounds a bit like Tiny Music-era Stone Temple Pilots and a whole lot like Enuff Z'Nuff, except fronted by somebody who hasn't heard any of these bands, but has only seen their pictures, since he was too busy listening to all the great rock & rollers that have surfaced since Weiland.

Lukas Rossi might have the look but that's because he spent more time on his eyeliner than his voice, which is great for a television show and not too bad for the group, since when the music is as mixed up and muddled as this, what's the difference who's singing? At no point does this band make sense. Lee, Newsted, and Clarke all come from decidedly different backgrounds, whose only common ground is a fondness for '70s hard rock and metal -- music from an age when rock stars not only wanted to have fun, but were expected to have fun for the rest of us, a fantasy that all three lived out until grunge crushed their dreams. Instead of having a singer who shared this vibe -- which would have been Toby or Storm -- they're now fronted by a guy raised in an era where rock was reduced to a vehicle expressing pain and angst, where fun never entered into the equation. When they're put together, they wind up making music that doesn't sound like either of their eras, and doesn't sound modern either. Their best possible hope for an audience is a group of aging Gen-Xers amused by the ridiculousness of it all -- and fortunately, Rock Star Supernova delivers on that promise. The band does sound good, albeit in a studio-pro sense: with their producer Butch Walker, they've polished up their sound so much it never sounds heavy, but that doesn't detract from how Clarke throws out some pretty good hooks, or how Lee drums as powerfully as he ever has, or how Newsted puts more energy into this than the situation needs. At times it clicks, or at least the riffs do, and the bandmembers gamely smile their way through turning the Rock Star theme into a song called "Underdog," but even at its best, it sounds dated, as if it was a retro-minded project from 1992. And whatever meager charms they have are completely obscured by Rossi, who primps like he's a star already, affects a ludicrous spooky growl, and often sounds overwhelmed by the backing vocals -- which may make this bad, but it's gloriously bad, the kind of music that can only result when three talented musicians are contractually obligated to work with a wannabe singer who would be a laughing stock on a local level. In other words, it's pretty much exactly the album anybody who watched Rock Star Supernova was hoping for.

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