|Locomotive Salvation (Starscream)
by Tola Brennan
We’ve all been to crummy shows. You go expecting to have a good time and dance
around a bit, and as it gets underway, you become infused with woe. You get this
buzz in your body, notice how edgy and belligerent you’re getting, and then register
how bad the music is. You want to get grooved up, but it’d just feel morbidly
embarrassing to stoop to such a level. Giving in to the temptation would defeat the
purpose of having standards and a legitimate set of preferences. And then, just as
you tell yourself, “Shit, who am I kidding; I might as well just join the revelry.” The
show ends. Now, there you are, left with a surplus of nervous energy wanting to
kick a dumpster.
Don’t fret, there is Starscream. They encapsulate the antithesis to that situation.
Starscream is an 8bit duo (entirely vocal free) from New York composed of George
Stroud on drums and Damon Hardjowirogo on the Game Boy. Starscream makes all
their music using LSDJ (Little Sound Disk Jockey), a now extinct cartridge for the
Nintendo Game Boy which lets the user sequence and program music using Game
The touchstone of Starscream’s lure is that it somehow through its strangeness
becomes universally accessible. It doesn’t carry all the target audience baggage of
the subculture inducing and induced fields of alternative rock and hip hop. In fact, it
combines the main tenets of these two categories in equal proportion: melody and
rhythm. The distorted buzzing melody of the Game Boy coalesces with the hi-hat and
snare heavy drumming without favoring either (a setback which besieges many
bands) in excess. Instead, they combine with jagged clarity to produce a sound
which is temporally dense but sonically sparse and refreshingly pithy. The sound
itself embodies that oft recited saying that a band should play a short set to “leave the
audience hungering for more”.
Starscream doesn’t fall into the rut of playing the same thing for too long. In each
song, they shift sporadically from groove to groove and line to line with occasional
and sudden breaks which leave the whole audience confused and astounded and then
satiated and consoled when the music starts again (often at a faster tempo). Using a
programmable instrument lets Damon create lines which are faster and more
complex then an ordinary guitarist would be able to manage.
However, by nature of their instrumentation, they are very much a live band. The
crowd they draw dances deliriously, then stumbles outside the venue to smoke madly
and collapse from exhaustion and euphoria. Starscream usually plays the “all age”
circuit (The Tank, Cakeshop, Don Hill’s, Southpaw, etc.) as well as various
unofficial organized events. They have just released a full length album entitled
Ghost//Stars. You can check them out on Myspace- /starscreamnewyork.
|The New York Optimist