Album review: STARDUST – Highway To Heartbreak

STARDUST – Highway To Heartbreak

Frontiers [Release date 09.10.20]

Debut album from (very) talented newcomers, Stardust.

In the world inhabited by melodic rock fans, very good pastiches of Eighties’ AOR get the utmost respect. The era’s distinctively polished, precision calibrated, hook heavy hard rock is so deeply ingrained in the psyches of genre fans that they need only hear an approximation of that sound to send them into raptures. Others find it hard to see the point.

Those very same fans will judge the opening two tracks to be an uncertain start, but they’ll vigorously agree that from there, Stardust have successfully crafted an album of songs that hit the AOR target, sometimes with laser guided accuracy, as on ‘Bullet To My Heart’ and ‘Shout It Out’. In each case the chorus is more than a pastiche. Yes, they are nods to the past, each gilded with deep fried harmonies and a naggingly familiar hook, but both are lit up by sparks of originality.

Moving up a level, ‘Second Hand Love’ and ‘Cant Stop Loving You’ are different class melodic rock songs. Both tracks, equiped with magnificently recurring guitar motifs, rise to a beautifully understated chorus, respectively recalling Def Leppard and The Storm. Stuff like this effortlessly captures and indeed amplifies the sound of an era. And does so without losing itself in a long identity parade of substandard, lookalike radio rock songs from the Eighties. Where you just can’t pick out one from the other.

Album standout (by some distance) is ‘Perfect Obsession’, a song with a keen, commercial edge that goes a step further. It expertly merges rock, pop and country into a discrete, identifiable sub genre with a wide demographic appeal. By driving a big ol’ AOR truck down Nashville’s country roads, Stardust, almost by accident, might just end up securing entry to a lucrative (if very competitive) market. ***1/2

Review by Brian McGowan

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