|Musical Style: Metal/Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2015||Artist Website: Lipstick|
|Tracks: 16||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 65:22|
It’s hard not to like, indeed love, the spring of 2015 self-titled debut full length of Lipstick and all the more so for the groups theatrical rock approach and retro glam image. The Lipstick origin traces to Cleveland, Ohio and vocalist Greg Troyan, who following a Kiss concert in 2004 in which he developed a vision for a band that is ‘fun, exciting and optimistic’ teamed with veteran guitarist Billy Morris (previously of Warrant and Quiet Riot) to record a twelve-song demo. Later relocating to Nashville, Tennessee to ‘take on the world as Lipstick’, Troyan formed a musical partnership with bassist Stephen Smith (Redgar & The Fighters) and began work on new material in addition to solidifying the unforgettable Lipstick stage show. The loyal fan base the group subsequently generated demanded that its demo recording (in which Troyan had no plans on making publicly available) be released on CD. Troyan relented and said demo formed the basis of Lipstick’s debut album, which initially came out in 2014 but saw re-issue in 2015 with four bonus tracks.
My experience has been for theatrical rock to be an open-ended statement, but as it applies to Lipstick encompasses a heavy eighties influence. It starts with a basis of melodic metal of the hair and glam variety I see appealing to those into anything from Stryper to Poison (and all things in between) but also includes nuances of late eighties Sunset Strip sleaze hard rock not unlike Faster Pussycat, Junkyard, Kix and Main Line Riders. New school modern hair metal bands such as Black Veil Brides, Crazy Lixx, Desyre and Chaotic Resemblance come to mind as well. Yet, Lipstick also refuses to be pigeonholed in that it is not afraid to reflect the best aspects of the seventies in the form of classic rock, straightforward hard rock and even some progressive aspects. Note how the Lipstick glam image owes more to a corresponding seventies shock rock feel as opposed to the overuse of hairspray and spandex characteristic to the eighties.
Regardless of the side of the fence in which you reside - seventies or eighties - if into layered choruses, pop influenced catchy hook, distinct guitar harmonies and shredding lead guitar then you will find a home in Lipstick! Opener “We’re Here To Rock You” draws upon all of this and more with its non-stop relentless energy and monster chorus hook of the kind to draw you in and refuse to let go. Pronounced bass guitar is of the grooving variety. “I Like The Way I Rock” comes across in the form of a companion track, upholding the unremitting energy but in the bluesier package with complementary cowbell and dogged guitar work. I cannot help but be reminded of early nineties Bride.
In a similar vein, aptly entitled “Having Fun” proves exactly that in representing a vibrant three-minute energy burst in which catchy hooks and a boogie flavored hard rocking milieu prevails. Taking the heavier and grittier approach is “Rock N Roll Forever”, as an anthem-like rock mentality plays a lead role on a track with a similar type of freely flowing and all out barreling verve. The exuberant energy the two bring to the table is on the infectious side of things.
“Alone” also delivers the crunch-laden goods but in the more tempered package, with reverberant bass solidifying the churning low end and polished backing vocals highlighting the poignantly done chorus. A commercial aspect comes to the forefront as a result. Likewise, “I Want The World To Know” gives rise to an accessible element with its lighter mid-tempo flavorings in which pronounced keyboards and soaring guitar feedback play decisive roles. Haunting and reflective is the feel at hand.
Lightening things further is the melodic hard rock and AOR leanings to “Tonight”. This one places priority on a generous keyboard mix while backing off (even if just slightly) the guitar emphasis, albeit not to a fault either way. “Love One Another” takes a crisp acoustic leaning, basic in form (but not crude or simplistic) and up-tempo in demeanor (playing up more commercial AOR elements). Lesson learned is how you can mellow out but not lose the listener in the process. Also standing out are the middle register vocal abilities of Greg Troyan, whose mostly gritty but also smooth and even flavorings never fail to complement whether it be the groups heavier material or that lighter in form.
When Lipstick takes a progressive stance, it shines equally. “Merle”, the first of two eight-minute pieces, starts to reserved acoustic guitar before turning into a full bore rocker with the rollicking piano, elevated tempo and mirthful mentality to match. Songs strength resides in how it fails to turn cumbersome despite the length. Likewise, “The Flash” also fits well at eight minutes but takes the overall heavier and more aggressive stance with driving riffs galore and curtly done refrain delivered in too the point fashion. Highlight to the song, and helping make it albums best track for this reviewer, is the four-minute instrumental break in which Billy Morris showcases his skillful soloing abilities.
There are only a couple clunkers out of the first twelve. “The Conan Song” does not do anything for me, which despite the quirky plea of “Hey there Conan I want to be on your show!” and tons of hyper energy find to wear thin with repeat listen. I also struggle to warm up to “It’s Christmas (And You Don’t Want Me Here)”. Perhaps it is due to the song being somewhat plain or the fact I am not a connoisseur of Christmas rock tunes, but my mind also tends to wander.
The four bonus tracks begin to an alternate mix of “Having Fun” that features the heavier guitar sound. “Illium” and “Fight Club” originally appeared on the Regdar & The Fighters release Spoiler Alert! Former is a cool science fiction themed piece, while latter leans in an offbeat pop-wave (almost ska) direction, which is not exactly my cup of tea. The song reportedly is a concert staple, so perhaps it translates better live. Closing things is a classy piano rendering of “I Want The World To Know”.
Production is crisp and tight with all the needed elements: Sturdy guitar mix, staunch bass presence and proper balance of vocals. When playing music of this capacity, you do not want too much polish; Lipstick succeeds in this regard from allowing for just the right combination of refinement and incessant, raw energy.
While I hesitate to label Lipstick a Christian band, primary members Greg Troyan and Stephen Smith are believers. Lyrically, the group’s prose is positive in touching upon boy-girl relationship themes but can also come across cheesy (in a humorous sense) on cliché entitled tracks such as “We’re Here To Rock You”, “I Like The Way I Rock” and “Rock N Roll Forever”. It is good to discover a group that does not take themselves too seriously and is not afraid to have fun in the process. The two, however, take opportunity to discuss their faith on several pieces, most notably “Love One Another” -
Remember what Jesus Christ said
Forgive and love and stop the hatred
Welcome those who sin into your open arms
It's tough to learn to forgive
But if they've truly changed then it's time to live
Together in peace with love inside our hearts
and “I Want The World To Know”:
I want the world to know I've been through hell
But I never lost my faith in God
I still believe I can achieve my dreams
I still believe its worth waiting for love
I want the world to know before my death
Before I go and take my final breath
Please, please remember me for this one truth
Please remember me for loving You
“Alone” talks of never giving up in the face of adversity:
Fight till the end, fight till the end
Even if I’m on my own
I’m gonna fight till the end, fight til the end
Even if I stand alone
No, no I’m gonna give it my all
No, no, no I refuse to fall
No, no I wont’ give in without a fight
Lipstick adds up to a very solid debut album. Main strength resides in the hook-filled songwriting - the group proves adept at composing catchy melodic metal and hard rock anthems - along with the youthful energy at hand. Yet, there is nothing repetitive either in that Lipstick delivers ample variety with material ranging from heavier to lighter to slower to faster to progressive. I do hit the skip button a couple times (keeping mind the albums consistency when factoring it includes 16 tracks) and some of the song titles are clichéd (the group’s emphasis on accessible songwriting comes through regardless). If the goal of founding member Greg Troyan was to create music that is ‘fun, exciting and optimistic” then he has more than exceeded all expectations and leaves us waiting for a follow up release- and hopefully sooner rather than later!
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “We’re Here To Rock You” (4:52), “I Like The Way I Rock” (3:17), “Alone” (3:38), “Merle” (7:44), “Having Fun” (2:54), “The Conan Song” (2:57), “I Want The World To Know” (4:56), “The Flash” (7:44), “Tonight” (3:50), “Love One Another” (4:48), “Rock N Roll Forever” (4:12), “It’s Christmas (And You Don’t Want Me Here)” (3:11), “Having Fun (Alternate Mix)” (2:52), “Illium” (2:48), “Fight Club” (1:47), “I Want The World To Know (Alternate Take)” (3:53)
Greg Troyan - Vocals & Keyboards
Billy Morris - Guitars & Bass
Stephen Smith - Bass
Matt Devonshire - Bass
Tim Burris - Drums
Bobby Consiglio - Drums
Tim Blackman - Drums
Ray Brown - Percussion
Russ Richards - Keyboards
Eric Penticoff - Piano
Sean Doran - Guitar