Striking while the iron was hot, Starz' "Violation" is another parade of smart, tightly constructed and compressed bursts of six-string effervescense, lean, dirty and riff oriented as the band, feeling their oats, let their creative psyche run wild, another Jack Douglas knob job, not as brawny as the debut but targeted with a purpose at middlest America.
Shoulda-been-huge summer heartland single "Cherry Baby" is confident jangle pop with a metallic basecoat, ringing guitars, an insistent, loping bass line courtesy of the late Peter Sweval, and harmonies and a melody you may need to scrape off your cerebellum with a spatula, quite likely the greatest song these guys ever wrote. To his eternal credit, Michael Lee Smith doesn't try to overpower or overstate his vocal delivery, but, like any great front man worth his salt, plays to the camera nonetheless, in turn creating a chorus for the ages.
"Sing It, Shout It" opens with deceptively jazzy Brenden Harkin strumming remniscent of Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "Blue Collar" before positively blossoming into another solid-as-oak Starz shouter, brimming with another strutting, euphoric Smith turn at the mic. Kiss may have had the stage props, but Starz fed 'em their lunch when it came to songwriting.
The manic title track would fit snugly on The Sweet's "Desolation Boulevard" or "Give Us A Wink" with an opening drum pattern copped from "Ballroom Blitz," a cautionary tale set in the not too distant future where "The Committee" has decreed that something as harmless as listening to rock and roll music is, uh, a violation. Even though Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz, who now maintains his own web site from within prison walls, didn't do his dirty work on the tube, "Subway Terror" will forever bring him to mind, four-string thunder courtesy of Sweval.
From there it's down the home stretch and back to the shed with the classy "All Night Long," the sleazy flamboyance of "Cool One" (chicken soup for the soul - "She reached over and she squeezed on my rocks/I lost it all in the popcorn box, yeah"), and the vaguely Aerosmithesque "S.T.E.A.D.Y.," the band kicking up a fair amount of dust before coming to a screeching halt with the flaccid theatrics of "Is That A Street Light Or The Moon?" What were they thinking?
At that point, Starz appeared indestructible, but despite an upward spike in sales to 350,000, the wheels came off after "Violation" in what smells suspiciously like our heroes caving in to record company demands for a hit with the soft, flirtatious radio rock of "Attention Shoppers!" "Coliseum Rock" was a slight return to form, but by that point the band was done like dinner, at least in Capitol's eyes.