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Classic Album Review: Robin Black & the Intergalactic Rock Stars | Planet: Fame

The rocker unleashes a full-frontal, feather-boa, glam-slam assault on the senses.

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This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


Robin Black’s album kicks ass. Those are five words I thought I’d never see — let alone write.

Nothing personal, you understand. I have nothing against Robin. I’m just kind of shocked is all. Let’s be honest: For most of the ’90s, the sometime hairdresser was just another rock-star wannabe toiling away on the local bar scene with his Ballroom Zombies, yammering on about how he was going to become a star, conquer the universe and save rock ’n’ roll. We all just smiled politely and nodded our heads. We never thought he might pull it off.

But damned if that isn’t just what Black — who took his dreams to Toronto a few years back — seems poised to do with the surprisingly impressive Planet: Fame, the debut album from his Intergalactic Rock Stars. Co-produced by former Pursuit of Happiness frontman Moe Berg and hard-rock studio rat GGGarth Richardson, Planet: Fame is a back-combed, full-frontal, feather-boa, glam-slam assault on the senses. Tired of rage-rock and nu-metal? Here’s your reprieve: For 40 minutes, Robin and his band of tattooed love boys throw the switch on the wayback machine and return us to the glory days of ’70s rock. Back to a time when boys knew how to wear eyeliner and walk in platforms. And a world where rock bands weren’t a bunch of dreary shlubs bellowing about how mommy and daddy never understood them.

In Robin’s world, he’s the one who understands only too well that they’re just as screwed up as the rest of us. “Mommy knows what Daddy don’t know / And what Mommy don’t know won’t hurt her,” he winks on T.V. Trash, a sugar-buzz cocktail of crunching guitars, candy-floss harmonies and leering decadence that kicks off this 13-track tryst and sets the tone for much of it.

If those lyrics kinda remind you of an old Cheap Trick song, well, get used to it. You’ll be thinking that a whole bunch as this album goes along. The chunky power-chord riffs and big ringing chords, the simple, rock-solid drum lines, the catchy pop melodies and soaring backup vocals — they’re all plundered from Trick’s first four albums, with a few gritty licks from Aerosmith’s Joe Perry thrown in for good measure. Likewise, Black’s vocals alternate between Robin Zander’s full-throated yell and Steven Tyler’s raw-throated shriek. And just like both those bands, Black and co. like their rock ’n’ roll with side orders of sleazy sex and drugs, as cuts like I Wanna Be High, More Effeminate Than You and Some of You Boys (And Most of You Girls) Will Love Me state in no uncertain terms. All they had to do was cover He’s a Whore to seal the deal.

So, no, it’s not like Black and the Intergalactic Rock Stars have reinvented the wheel. But so what if they sound like old Aerosmith and Cheap Trick? That’s one helluva sound in my book. And it’s a sound that neither one of those bands seems capable of creating anymore. So hell, Robin, take that glitter ball and run with it all the way to the top of the glam-rock heap.

Next time, I promise I’ll listen.