Major Stars - "Blank Slate" (Decibels Of Gratitude)
When Major Stars undertook the dramatic change of adding Sandra Barrett to the line-up on 2007’s Mirror/Messenger, it freed Wayne Rogers from his vocal obligations to concentrate on guitar work with his wife, Kate Village. At the same time, long-time bassist Tom Leonard (of Luxurious Bags fame) shifted to guitar, turning the ensemble into a three-guitar circus that ploughed and pumped its way through the passionate mantra that is the eternal study of Major Stars.
Barrett’s vocals dominated a rather strange wall of muddied sound that seemed to take half an album to sort through, leaving listeners (and Dusted’s Doug Mosurock) questioning production values and what could have gone wrong with tunes that made sense in their own right. But if anyone can properly execute the three-guitar sound, it would have to be Rogers, whose been wreaking havoc with the instrument for more than 30 years.
When Barrett stepped away for 2010’s Return to Form, Amanda Bristow lent a helping hand (or voice, in her case) with a few of the tracks, and the three-guitar sound came close to perfection. Bristow’s vocals forsook an unnatural purity for a more complementary role in what Major Stars is all about: freak guitars exploring their proggy roots.
By 2012, the band had a new front woman in Hayley Thompson-King, and almost as if to celebrate the assiduity to all they stand for, Major Stars gave us a new offering, Decibels of Gratitude. When a band’s sound begins and ends with the guitar, a vocalist’s influence transforms the space and affects the way the instruments interact. Decibels is the typical Major Stars brilliance we’ve lazily come to expect from these perpetual high achievers, but Thompson-King is a more indie singer, with a raw sepulchral tone that ties down the band and brings the guitars back to the fore, allowing them to offer their pulverised sound as distinctive parts. The result is a thrilling contribution to the Major Stars oeuvre, again proving that doing the same thing over and over is just fine when you are the absolute best at what you do.