Album Review: Star Circus – Separate Sides

Now I’ll state from the start that this album wasn’t one that I was expecting great things from. I detest Def Leppard far more than I should, and when the blurb said “FFO Queen, Def Leppard, Cheap Trick…” I really should have walked away. But I’m partial to early Queen, and I am a huge fan of Cheap Trick despite their saccharine sound, so there was hope.  And so it proved.

The London based outfit were formed by Dave Winkler (Bordello Rose, Renegade Playboys, Trophies of Man), who decided to move out on his own after time as a session musician for a range of artists. Alongside the legendary Tony Wilson handling production duties, the debut album features mastering by Ade Emsley at Table of Tone Mastering (Iron Maiden/Alison Moyet/The Treatment). Alongside Winkler, Star Circus features Sophie Aurélia Young on bass/backing vocals, Jon Crampton on guitar/backing vocals and drummer and backing vocalist Alex Makarov and special guest appearances from Dan Stevens (Inglorious), Tom Draper (Carcass, Angel Witch), and backing vocals from Ben Christo (Sisters of Mercy, Diamond Black, Ricky Warwick Band).

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The album opens with the catchy “Save Your Life”, which immediately draws you in. It’s followed by the upbeat “Something”, the duo providing a strong opening to the album. There’s an interesting change of style in the opening pair, and a tempting, anthemic double which confirms that there’s much more to explore. If you’re expecting heavy rockers then you’ll be disappointed, for much of this album is more pop than rock but with a guitar feel that keeps things buzzing along. “Just Like in A Movie” combines some delightful piano with a beat and hook that demands you get up and dance – infectious and catchy seems to be the strap line throughout. There is a taste of the classic rock about the album. “Circles” for example, features some fine guitar playing, a 1980s vibe that is given a contemporary overhaul. It’s more Counting Crows than AC/DC but it’s still enjoyable stuff.

The style changes again on “A Couple More Years” which tips a nod to Elvis Costello before the rock returns on “Times Get Tough” which swerves to a sleazy swagger with melody and harmonies aplenty whilst “Before the Song is Over” is the ideal anthemic closing track. It’s an album of many layers and will appeal to those who like their music intelligent and yet easily accessible. Certainly, much better than I was expecting and a band with a bright future ahead.

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Separate Sides is out on December 2nd

Check out all the bands we review in 2022 on our Spotify and YouTube playlists!

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