Killer Dwarfs – Start@One

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Review by Brian McGowan

Recorded in 1993, then shelved as the world of melodic rock shifted on its axis, Start@One has been resurrected, replastered and finally released. Killer Dwarf songs seldom make an immediate impact. What they do is slip inside when you’re not looking. Then suddenly, like the nicest possible hard rock home invasion, they become your best friends. Start@One is just like that.

‘Lonely Road’ and ‘Solid Ground’ open the album for a reason. They’re the first to make that breakthrough, insinuating their way past your defences, staking out a chunk of territory to which you can return, explore and enjoy time and time again. Unlike many in their peer group, Killer Dwarfs never allowed their music to succumb to the false promise of polish and glitz. There remained a hardness, an edge, a classic sound that resonates even now. It was as much a refusal to take the easy route to fame as it was an integral part of the band’s musical manifesto.

The balladic ‘Adalina’ and the title track, ‘Start@One’ are dark and sinewy affairs, sturdily melodic, both hinting at the Sunset Strip ambitions of bands like Ratt and the LA Guns, but holding back, content to underplay a winning hand. In contrast, underneath the roaring racket of ‘Sky Is Falling’, a big boned, intense performance turns a simple rock song into a memorably flamboyant piece of theatre. That said, ‘Down In Hollywood’ is perhaps the album’s outstanding track. Lyrically loaded, it achieves what many rock bands aim at, but few achieve, capturing the sound of the street with voice, guitar, bass and drums, a pithy lyric and a deceptively simple – if abrasive – arrangement and production.

Why didn’t this band make it big? Arguably, as judged by their album artwork, the band’s cartoon imagery was (and still is) misplaced. It suggested that the band was not one to be taken seriously. But that was only ever a small part of the story. Right label, right place, right time are what counts. All the things you can’t really control. Great to see Start@One getting a release after all this time. Recommended.

Killer Dwarfs 20138 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Lonely Road
  2. Solid Ground
  3. Sky Is Falling
  4. Adalina
  5. Psych Circus
  6. Start@One
  7. Down In Hollywood
  8. Walk On By
  9. The Crowd