The Kid Is Slayed? The Crash Street Kids’ Supersonic Star Show

Published on January 30th, 2011 in: All You Need Is Now, Current Faves, Issues, Music |

By Cait Brennan

Reductivism is the great tragedy of history. As the years pass and firsthand knowledge dies, the rough grain of history fades to white. Nuance is forgotten and arcane knowledge is lost. An infinite palette of color and shading fades, first to primary colors and eventually down to broad, ill-defined strokes—gouges in sandstone. Our life spans are too brief, our memories too quick to fade.

Thus in 2011, that perfect pop moment called Glam Rock is mostly reduced to flickering B-roll of Ziggy Stardust circa 1972, bless him. Or misremembered entirely as that thing Poison was doing in 1989, whatever that was. Some kid who fancies himself a music historian may mention T. Rex. But the amazing spectrum of bands and artists who made up the first glitter-rock era—from Sparks to Suzi Quatro, from Slade to the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, the Sweet, Mott The Hoople—what self-respecting 21st century boy, not even born when Marc Bolan died, could possibly hope to truly know that world?

Ryan McKay does. He’s the front man for Phoenix’s Crash Street Kids, and—along with band mates A. D. Adams, Ricky Serrano, and Ryan “Deuce” Gregory—the last, best hope for glam rock and roll.

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The band formed in 2005 when Adams and McKay, veteran sidemen for Alice Cooper guitarist Michael Bruce, got together to share their love of records like Destroyer-era KISS and the New York Dolls, and decided to bring forth a new band that drew on those influences—as well as pioneering punk acts like the Dead Boys. The band gained an early patron in Alice Cooper himself, who dug their theatricality and offered up support and rehearsal space as the Crash Street Kids developed their sound and a glam-worthy “Supersonic Star Show” complete with ramps, explosions, cheerleaders, and general mayhem. The band debuted at Cooper’s annual Christmas show in 2005 and an anachronistic sensation was born.

While glam records are known for their high-concept aspirations, Crash Street Kids went one better, spinning a massive three-album epic about the rise and fall of “The Kid”—a glitter rock star circa 1975, who follows a Velvet Goldmine trajectory complete with mysterious ending (is the Kid dead? Stay tuned!) The records (2006’s Let’s Rock and Roll Tonite, 2007’s Chemical Dogs, and 2008’s Transatlantic Suicide) are filled with power pop gems, fat tube amps, and vintage wah pedals; shades of Ronson, Mick Ralphs, and Zal Cleminson; bass riffs worthy of Jim Lea; a little of the madness of The Sweet; Adams’ monster drumming; and McKay’s soaring vocals. Other than the Hedwig soundtrack, there hasn’t been a sound like it in 35 years.

Let’s Rock and Roll Tonite kicks off the mythology with energetic originals like “C’mon C’mon C’mon,” “Sugar Queen,” and “77 Mercedes” living in perfect harmony with the Ramones’ “Chinese Rock” and a massive glam-rock “concert” finale featuring an ace cover of Mott/Bowie’s “All The Young Dudes.”

Chemical Dogs is a thematically darker record, tracing the Kid’s decent into the usual highway-to-hell rock and roll decadence, but CSK’s relentlessly energetic songs keep things moving in tunefully addictive fashion. “Mandy and the Leapers” goes all Baroque like something out of Phantom Of The Paradise. “Space Rock Time Bomb” is a sing along romp, and “Motor City Nazz” does exactly what it says on the tin.

Transatlantic Suicide is the best of the three, putting the (mildly ambiguous) coda on the Kid’s story with a great collection of songs, from the Stonesy “Cigarettes and Starfuckers” to “We Kill Tomorrows,” “Saturn’s Child,” and “The Kid Is Dead?” (“Don’t believe what they tell you,” McKay implores). Writing the end of the story allows McKay and the band to let loose with huge, soaring anthems, and perhaps the trilogy’s most ambitious songs, “Berlin” and “Dressed In White,” which combine the band’s best instincts for theatrical rock balladry and compositional experimentation. Like its predecessors, Transatlantic Suicide also captures the amazing musicianship of the band, from A. D. Adams’ Herculean drumming and Deuce Gregory’s muscular ’70s bass licks to McKay and Ricky Serrano’s searing guitar work. McKay’s dynamic vocals imbue his lyrics with immediacy and urgency, and his ballads have a tenderness and depth that few rock singers can match.

The great thing about the narrative is that it’s an added bonus, not a prerequisite; most of these are great standalone pop songs. The Kid’s rise and fall rewards attentive listeners and enthusiastic fans. And overarching narrative or no, you have to love a band with the audacity to write a song called “Do You Still Believe In Rock And Roll?” without a trace of irony or hipster sneer—just raw, unadulterated joy. Putting aside the sound and the fashion, perhaps that’s the best thing about Crash Street Kids: they distill the best of the glam era and build on it without ever sounding dated or jaded. Their music’s filled with that anything-goes exuberance and passion, and it’s clear they love this stuff—no calculating music business whiz would form a glam rock band in order to get to the top of the pop charts these days.

In 2010, CSK released Live From The Waist Down, a blistering true-to-form “double live” album that captures the big arena-rock sound and frenetic energy of their live shows (and more than a few explosions). The band’s on a hiatus as drummer A. D. Adams is touring with Louis Prima Jr.’s band, and the fate of the Kid may be up in the air—but here’s hoping that even if the Crash Street Kids have killed the man, they won’t break up the band.

For more on the Crash Street Kids, check them out on MySpace and Facebook.

3 Responses to “The Kid Is Slayed? The Crash Street Kids’ Supersonic Star Show”

  1. lori:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    I have known them for years…and they are truly amazing!

  2. Tweets that mention Popshifter » The Kid Is Slayed? The Crash Street Kids’ Supersonic Star Show --
    February 3rd, 2011 at 3:51 am

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by, Kit Kelley. Kit Kelley said: My review of glitter-rock gods Crash Street Kids is up over at @popshifter! […]

  3. Amanda:
    February 4th, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    I love Ricky!!!

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