Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Tsar “Tsar” (2000)

It’s a safe bet that by 2000, anything remotely glam was dead. Between rap’s “edge” and teen pop ruling the charts along with most rock bands downtuning their instruments and their looks, it seemed no one was interested in good ol’ fashioned “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.” I guess the boys in Tsar never got the memo, and I’m actually somewhat amazed that someone at Hollywood records gave them a shot.

This album was a 10 song celebration of what made so much of the 70s and 80s great: fist pumping, lighter waving melodies bursting with hooky riffs and punchy leads surrounded by the Robin Zander-like wail of Jeff Whalen. All the songs here show the potential for filling an arena yet carry an almost indie-like cred to them that should have endeared them to both those still trying to hold on to their youth as well as that wanna-be alternative crowd. Judging by the sales, sadly they latched neither.

With songs like the infectious candy of “I Don’t Want To Break Up,” the immense “Kathy Fong Is The Bomb” and the slow yet not quite ballad “Ordinary Gurl” all screaming out to be the lost hit singles the NY Dolls never had, this is LA strip meets NY gutter meeting up somewhere in the heartland of America.

Worth hunting down is the “King Of School EP,” with remixes and B-sides from the album including a wicked rocked up cover of the Backstreet Boys’ “Larger Than Life.”

The band would eventually follow up this release with the rather disappointing “Band-Girls-Money,” where gone was so much of the polish that made this debut so enjoyable. Apparently a new album is in the works. I hope so as this lot proves there’s still a massive void in rock waiting to be filled by someone not afraid to have fun.