Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lipstick-Lipstick II


Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls...rock and roll fanatics of all ages. May I please have your attention for just one moment. Thank you. Believe it or not, it's been nearly a year and a half since we last heard from Nashville's (ever so fun!) Lipstick. Yes, I do hear all of you and I completely agree with your assessment. It is rather shocking isn't it? I mean we all know that is far too long to have to wait for new music from Lipstick. When you think back to how good this band's (highly-recommend) 2015 self-titled debut album was it does make you want to march down to Tennessee and say "Come on Lipstick guys! What's the holdup?". Hey, I understand the frustration folks. But, before we get out the pitchforks and torches why don't we hear Greg Troyan and Steve Smith (the creative core of this positive and uplifting band) out? Or better yet, why don't we let the band's new album do the talking? OK? OK!  Picking up where their first disc left off (while simultaneously pushing the envelope more towards the wild and crazy/sunny side of life!), "Lipstick II" finds this (one-time or is it just part-time?) "theatrical glam rock/sleazy hard & heavy"* band flexing it's creative muscles and trying out new things (quite successfully I might add!). Naturally, Lipstick went into the studio with the same idea as last time around. They would rock the joint in a big (bubbly!) way and have as much fun as possible doing it! To that end, "Lipstick II" is a success story. I might take issue with the running order of the tracks (see my note below entitled "Track List"), but I have no objections whatsoever as far as the music goes! With the help of some top-notch studio musicians, talented main-members Greg Troyan (most of the lead vocals and a little guitar playing) and Steve Smith (lead and backing vocals, bass, acoustic and electric guitars, and even the trumpet!) played around with things like pop-punk, power-pop, glitter/glam rock, classic rock, hard rock, pop rock, pop metal, hair metal, blues-rock, and ska. Yes, you read that last part correctly. I said ska! On the 15-track "Lipstick II" (which you can snag here), Greg and Steve throw caution to the wind as they let down their hair and let loose!! Mind you, "Lipstick II" is still rock and roll and it is still heavy metal. Those foundations still remain in place. This is simply a case where a heavy rock/heavy metal band (wisely) forgoes the usual limitations that are placed on them and to great effect. Of course a big part of the thanks has to go to the previously-mentioned (huge list of) guest musicians that were involved with the recording process. Much like it's predecessor, "Lipstick II" finds Greg and Steve (two fine and true gentlemen!) surrounded by equally-skilled studio musicians. These talented "extras" not only helped fill in the gaps (as it were), but they add to the overall (natural) flow of the pair's new album. Like the first album, "Lipstick II" also has three songs with the word "rock" in the title and it has a Christmas-themed number. Otherwise, "Lipstick II" is a new creature all it's own. As suggested it is more laid back than Lipstick's 2015 debut, but it is also more fun. In a way it is very care free and spontaneous, "Lipstick II" coming across as if it was almost a free-form creation. However you want to slice and dice it (as far as the way that it was forged in the studio and then sent packing to your eardrums), Lipstick's new album is experimental and it defies easy classification. All the same, "Lipstick II" is slick and extremely cool. The thing is, what good is it to have cool music if you don't have clever and insightful lyrics to back it up? Thankfully Lipstick has that part covered. On their sophomore outing the band tackles issues like anime conventions, mosh pit bullies, domestic violence, teenage romances, and (most importantly!) traveling in time in order to witness the very first Christmas! And I for one couldn't be happier with the result!! Sure, it might sound silly on paper. With subjects like Sailor Moon, dancing dinosaurs, and what constitutes good eats**, "Lipstick II" could easily be looked at as if it were a ship lost on the ocean, unsure of what direction to take next. Dig deeper and you'll find (essential!) moments like "Love of Some Kind". Written by Greg and Steve in order that Greg could use it as a means to propose to his finance, "Love of Some Kind" is sincere and honest. Whenever you have a song with that kind of raw emotional attachment it really does transcend to a new level. Much more than a silly and stupid love song, "Love of Some Kind" is the sound of one man pouring out his heart to a woman that has been a saving point in his life. While the magic left when she walked out on the kids and I some six or so years back, my ex-wife saved me from the same kind of self-imposed destruction. Having interviewed lead singer Greg Troyan prior to the release of this perfect piece, "Love of Some Kind" tells a much longer tale than the actual lyrics allow for, but as with many important works it helps if you can read between the lines with your eyes opened to the truth. Time being what it is, "Lipstick II" could easy use up all of mine (and I suspect yours) if I was to go number by number, deeper into the meaning of other songs that I enjoy on this album. As a gift of sorts, I'll spare the lot of you and just close with this final bit. If you know and love Lipstick as I do, "Lipstick II" is a easy recommendation. If you are new to the band....well, either album would do as far as introductions are concerned. With the band's 2015 debut album you will get a streamlined view of this hard & heavy/pop metal outfit. It's a bit more serious than "Lipstick II", but I would argue that it isn't as much fun. There are similar aspects to both releases, but it should probably be noted that there are several songs on this recording that were left over from the first one and they were left off because they didn't quite fit in with the direction of "Lipstick". Of course either way you go you won't go wrong...

*Those were the exact words that I used to describe Lipstick on their debut recording. That band still exists on the quirky "Lipstick II", but they seem to be way more at ease this second time around. 

**Odes to food are one thing, but when you go and mention potato salad...well, we need to talk. Created by Satan himself in order to poison and deprive me of fully appreciating our mashable friend, potato salad is nothing short of unholy and it makes me question the supposed "goodness" of this Tennessee outfit! 

 Track List:
I'm going to be honest about something here. The first time I listed to this album I liked it, but it did feel as if something was off about it. After setting it aside for a day I went back to it. The same thing happened so I paused it and decided to come back to it later. After hitting play I not only listened to the rest of the tracks on the CD, but (as I had put it on loop) I listened to the first half of the songs again (only they were on the back end this time). It was at that point that I realized two things. The first thing was that the track listing was off on "Lipstick II" and that it needed to be fixed. The second thing I realized is just how good the disc is. Playing it from the half way part like that gave it a more even flow and a better sense of direction. It made an OK album absolutely slamming! Now, I'm not going to sit here and say that I know better than the band when it comes to the track listing (especially seeing as I have a tremendous amount of respect for Greg and Steve!), but I do feel as if I should call it like I see it. 

PS: No, I have not sat down and worked out where I would put each song. Having listened to "Lipstick II"  about four times now (and loving it more with each spin!) I've found myself digging it as a whole. The songs are super fun and upbeat and it makes me look at Lipstick in a whole new light. I offered my opinion as a preemptive-response to other people who might feel the same thing when they hear the album for the first time.

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