Ron Gallo: Stardust Birthday Party

Ron Gallo
Stardust Birthday Party
(New West)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Regardless of whether you enjoyed Ron Gallo’s 2017 debut, or felt it was over the top, there was no denying its sheer audacity. For a guy that seemed to come out of nowhere (well, fronting the little known Toy Soldiers), this was a revelation which ended up as one of the year’s most impressive new artist albums. And one of the funniest, too. Who else would have the chutzpa to title a tune “Why Do You Have Kids?” or “All The Punks Are Domesticated.”?

A year and one somewhat jumbled, if interesting, EP later, Gallo’s sophomore full-length confirms the praise heaped on him. Fasten your seat belts though, because this is another bumpy ride.

Opening with 47 seconds of tinkling triangle and throbbing chords called “Where Are You Now-Point To It” (those are pretty much the only words), Gallo immediately hits an ’80s power pop/punk sweet spot with “Always Elsewhere,” which falls between the Buzzcocks and the Vibrators. The guitars churn, the drums pound and Gallo hollers “no time to feel what’s real” like the snottiest of garage punks. The jagged cadence of “Do You Love Your Company” brings Gang of Four spiky funk to the table as Gallo howls the lyrics like he’s being squeezed in the privates.

The tension loosens initially for “You Are the Problem,” showing Gallo’s sharp sense of turning a bizarre phrase (“Nine out of 10 times/10 out of nine times/ You are the problem… I know it’s hard to know where to start/ When you’re looking outside yourself”) until the song takes an unexpected psychedelic sharp turn with sped up backwards tapes creating a sort of audio whiplash. Cheap Trick would be proud to call the thumping “Party Tumor” their own, what with its Beatle-esque chorus that quickly switches to Beach Boys harmonies. Iggy Pop probably wishes he wrote the title “I Wanna Die (Before I Die),” just over a minute of chugging hard rock goodness. Devo would like to ask for their patented yelps back, which Gallo borrows for the chunk-funk of “A Love Supreme (Work Together).” And just when you think things can’t get any weirder, Gallo throws in “OM,” just over a minute of him questioning the meditation thing over musing “om”s before crash landing into the rocking pop of “It’s All Gonna Be OK.”

It’s over a breathless 35 minutes that the album closes with spoken word atop the clomping rhythm of the unsettling “Happy Deathday” (“How hard we have to work for a false sense of worth/only to let it all go”). But there’s so much to absorb here, with creative lyrical and often jagged production twists, let alone melodies that veer all over the map, that you’ll quickly return for another cycle on Gallo’s musical merry-go-round to hear what you missed the first time.

Hang on and enjoy the ride.