When you think of glam metal, a number of things come to mind: sleaze; falsity; a degree of catchiness, sure…but with that catchiness, a sell-by date—a point at which you realize that all of the hooks are mere surface sheen and then lose interest in it, absent all that much worth writing home about beyond that. It feels a little weird to be talking about sell-by dates (or, more to the point, outlasting sell-by dates) with Santa Cruz‘s new, self-titled second album—the thing only just dropped this week!—but if the early impression’s any indicator, this thing’s got a decent chance at sticking around in your head for a while.
Unlike their fellow genre contemporaries Steel Panther, Santa Cruz aren’t meant as a joke. There’s a real earnestness to this album—one that is, admittedly, a bit silly at first, but ends up feeling downright endearing by the time the album plays out. There’s more to this band than simply making jokes about blowjobs or fat girls, and so the musicianship—from the anthemic gang vocal choruses to the killer guitar solos—is not only top notch, but also contributes to a much more respectable bigger picture.
But don’t think that bigger picture sacrifices any of the fun factor; Santa Cruz is still very much an album to pop on at a party, play loud and make bad decisions to. Whether it’s the Skid Row-esque kick-in-the-ass of “Velvet Rope,” or the singalong fun of lead single “Wasted & Wounded,” there are ample opportunities for amusement here. (Particularly when lead singer Arttu “Archie” Kuosmanen belts out his best David Lee Roth-esque falsetto during the latter) Really, there’s not a single song among the album’s first seven that isn’t a ton of fun, or that won’t have you shouting out the lyrics by the time it’s run its course.
There are ten songs in all, though, and it’d be an oversight not to acknowledge that the album doesn’t close out nearly as strongly as it opens. “Let Them Burn” feels like the rare instance where Santa Cruz let their genre’s cheesy tropes run too far away from them, while the placement of the power ballad, “Can You Feel the Rain,” as album-closer just makes it feel a bit too serious and out-of-place. (“Vagabonds” gets a few more points thanks to its bridge section, but in general, it still doesn’t quite meet the bar of its earlier counterparts.)
In general, though, this thing’s well worth a listen. When an album can turn a hilariously stupid lyric like “1-2-3-4-5-666 feet under” into a mere afterthought on an otherwise stellar song, you know the band responsible is onto something. That’s what we’ve got here with Santa Cruz. Does it really matter how long it’ll stay stuck in your head? Nah. But while it is there, you can bet you’ll enjoy it.
Keep it heavy,