by Ryan Allen (@nubroozes)
By all accounts, Austin, TX shoegaze/psyche/punk trio Ringo Deathstarr should be HUGE. Formed in 2007, the band has cranked out a shit-load of singles, EPs, and with the release of Pure Mood, four full-length LPs. So, prolific much? Check. They’ve hit the road with seminal influence Smashing Pumpkins (back in the winter of 2011 and 2012), so cross hobnobbing with their heroes off the bucket list. And since the shoegaze resurgence over the last few years has seen My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and Slowdive playing to the biggest audiences of their careers, you could say that Ringo Deathstarr is mining a similar sound at just about the right time. Hell, they’re even big in Japan and Europe, touring both continents extensively over their tenure as a band.
But, for some reason, big time success (at least in the US) has somewhat eluded the band. Which, depending on how you look at it, is either a damn shame, or exactly how it should be for a band this good. See, as much as their sound, influences, songwriting prowess and instrumental proficiency should be catapulting them to the top of festival lineups, the band are likely stuck playing for a handful of shoegaze obsessives in the dive bars and dumps scattered across America. And for fans of this kind of stuff (bendy guitar chords that feel like somersaults, airy, melodic vocals, squalls of noise) sometimes it’s nice to have your own little secret (likely much to the chagrin of the band’s bank accounts).
Indeed, there is something precious about this band that is hard to put your finger on. Certainly their sound doesn’t lead to making such a statement. Buzzsaw guitars mingle with electronic and organic drum beats and heavy bass, all amidst a downpour of boy/girl harmonies that bring to mind a more ethereal version of Velocity Girl’s Sarah Shannon and Archie Moore. There’s a perfect marriage of punk grit with their pillowy sounds, and just when you think they’ve gone full Enya (really it’s more Lilys or Lush on mellow opener “Dream Again”), they reach back into the buzz-bin and pull out metallic riffage (heard on the Sabbathy-y second track “Heavy Metal Suicide”) or full-on guitar heroics (like on the swaying, Pumpkins-like “Guilt”). Elsewhere, you’ll hear echoes of Garbage (“Big Bopper”), Curve (“Boys in Heat”) and maybe even, uh, Republica (“Never” supplies the same electro-punk rush that guilty pleasure “Ready to Go” delivers…and that’s a good thing!).
So what is it, then? What is it about this band that makes one feel like they are in on something the rest of the world should know about, but maybe isn’t ready for? Perhaps it’s because this band has been at it for so long, plugging in their Jazzmasters and half-working pedal boards before it became cool again. Maybe it’s because when searching “Ringo Deathstarr” on Pitchfork, it results in just one track review from 2012’s Mauve LP. Could it be their name? Whatever the case, fans of this band should gladly hold on to the cult-like status of Ringo Deathstarr as their own little shoegaze secret if they are continuing to crank out albums as killer as Pure Mood. Now, who is going to create that Ringo Deathstarr secret handshake?