Master Vibrator (Buzz)

By Bob Bahr

Starbilly is a band that is hard to get a handle on — that is, unless you turn everything off in your brain and let the music rock you. Their live shows boast a very big sound that draws you in with a magnetic force, or a certain gravity. One or two songs—namely "Unmistakable Tick" and "Heather" — are impossible to dislike or even ignore. But there's the nagging feeling that this group is operating at about 35% of its potential. Grand vocalist Peter Searcy, bassist Casey Seitz, dazzling drummer Tom Tompkins and guitarists David Emst and Phil Wakeman are all musicians that Louisville can be proud of. But the sum of the parts seems to far exceed the whole with this band.

"Unmistakable Tick" is a well-written, well-executed rock tune that perfectly utilizes four or five guitar riffs. Starbilly's cover of the dark Hiisker Dü tune "Diane" is a smart reworking, and "Heather" slides sideways nicely between desperation and determination. But over the course of Master Vibrator, this listener starts wishing for more — not jazz-type licks or bizarre chord choices, just varying approaches and energy levels.

It takes a disciplined person to execute an idea with a purity of form and vision. Starbilly has produced a consistent, appealing album in Master Vibrator. But it's like the lunch that you enjoyed but forgot by 3 p.m. And everyone in Louisville knows the further potential of these five players —and thus, Starbilly. Album number two, please.