LIPSTICK – Lipstick [Special Edition +4] (2015)
I resulted interested in US rockers LIPSTICK when I read that ex- Warrant / St. James guitarist Billy Morris was one of the founder members. Originally a studio project put together with vocalist Greg Troyan in the fall of 2012, Lipstick soon became a full band and a live act with a theatrical show.
Lipstick’s self-titled debut was presented last year, but the guys have just re-released the CD in a Special Edition format featuring 4 extra new tracks.
It is always a lot of fun playing a CD for the first time from a band that you are not familiar with and without having previously heard any of the songs. This usually rarely happens to me in these days of advanced technology and singles.
About Lipstick’s musical style, think glam metal in the style of Poison’s Look What The Cat Dragged In or Kix with a punky sleazy edge and different vocals, and you will have an idea of what Lipstick offer on their debut self-titled record.
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 ’80s.
The songs on “Lipstick” are for the most part poppy and melodic, catchy, short and fun.
But also there is a lot of variety from the piano filled ‘Merle’ to the Great Big Sea sounding ‘Fight Club’ and in that regard, it reminds me of some of Alice Cooper‘s more eclectic releases.
The one common element for most of the songs are the catchy choruses and the well played guitar riffs & solos from Billy Morris, a guy seriously influenced by the ’80s greats but with a personal sound.
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.
‘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. 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 grrove prevails.
Taking a 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 the song 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.
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 form, simple (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.
‘The Conan Song’ is a curious little rocker. It was composed by Lipstick with famous Conan O’Brien’s self-titled talk show in mind. They band really want to be on Conan’s show, and they want Conan to know. However, it’s the less interesting song in the album (and a bit silly if you ask me).
When Lipstick takes a little progressive stance, they are pretty interesting as well. The aforementioned ‘Merle’ (one of the only two long tracks on the CD) starts to reserved acoustic guitar before turning into a full bore rocker with the rollicking piano, elevated tempo and mirthful mentality to match.
The other cut clocking over the seven minutes is the fast ‘The Flash’, a 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 one of the album’s best tracks, is the four-minute instrumental break in which Billy Morris showcases his skillful soloing guitar abilities.
The four bonus tracks on this Special Edition begin to an alternate mix of ‘Having Fun’ that features the heavier guitar sound. ‘Illium’ and ‘Fight Club’ were composed by bassist Stephen Smith for his previous band, so expect something different; the former is a cool science fiction themed piece, while latter leans in an offbeat pop-wave 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’, re-discovering the melodic backbone of this pretty good song.
Lipstick is all about fun, and their rocking, hooky short songs reflects that spirit.
Production is crisp and tight with all the needed elements: sturdy guitar mix, staunch bass presence and proper balance of vocals, overall not too much polished allowing the right combination of refinement and incessant, raw energy.
Perhaps the enjoyment of Lipstick’s debut record will depend on how you enjoy Troyan’s singing which is pretty one dimensional, but between their ’80s influenced poppy metal tunes the band add some more juicy songs with interesting development, and there is where Billy Morris’ guitars take a central role.
And the guy can play, believe me, not in vain Mr. Big’s Paul Gilbert pick him for his live band as supporting guitarist.
According to the band, Lipstick’s goal was to create music that is ‘fun, exciting and optimistic’. I think they have more than exceeded those expectations and leaves us waiting for a follow up release – and hopefully sooner rather than later!
01 – Were Here To Rock You
02 – I Like The Way I Rock
03 – Alone
04 – Merle
05 – Having Fun
06 – The Conan Song
07 – I Want The World To Know
08 – Tonight
09 – The Flash
10 – Love One Another
11 – Rock N Roll Forever
12 – Its Christmas (And You Don’t Want Me Here)
13 – Having Fun (Alternate Mix) *
14 – Illium *
15 – Fight Club *
16 – I Want The World To Know (Alternate Take) *
* denotes Special Edition Bonus Tracks
Greg Troyan – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Percussion
Billy Morris – Guitar, Bass, Backing Vocals
Stephen Smith – Bass, Vocals
Eric Penticoff – Keyboards
Casey Horn – Backing Vocals
Greg Loyacano. Bob Consiglio – Drums
Regdar – Drums, Sythesizers
Ray Brown – Percussion
Russ Richards – add. Keyboards
Tim Burris – Drums on “We’re Here To Rock You”
Tim Blackman – Drums on “Tonight”
Sean Doran – Guitar on “Tonight”
Matt Devonshire – Bass on “The Flash”
Kelly Carne – Backing Vocals on “Merle”
BUY IT !