December 1, 2022

Star Circus – Separate Sides – Review

Label: Diamond Formation Music

Genre: Pop-Rock

Release date: December 2

Line up:

Dave Winkler, lead vocals/guitar
Sophie Aurélia Young, Bass/Backing Vocals
Jon Crampton, guitar/backing vocals
Alex Makarov, drums/backing vocals

List of tracks:

1. Save your life
2. Something
3. Like in a movie
4. Love is the enemy
5. On your side
6. Circles
7. Wall around your heart
8. A few more years
9. Bridges
10. Times are getting tough
11. Before the Song Ends

Tell me you like 80s music and bands without telling me you like 80s music and bands. Pausing for a moment, Star Circus frontman, guitarist and founder Dave Winkler held out a glass of amber nectar, decried “hold my beer” and, in late 2022, delivered Star Circus’ debut album “Separate Sides.”

Now I have no problem receiving someone’s beer, as long as they realize they don’t get it back. As I finish the drink, seated next to me (which to be fair is my own rather delicious glass of IPA), I listen to a band that grew up with it and is clearly inspired by Queen, Def Leppard, Cheap Trick , Thin Lizzy and many more. As with all things, when you listen to an album for the first time, the sounds that come out of the headphones will awaken memories, riffs, styles, choruses, that connect the old with the new.

It’s fair to say that this is the album that Cheap Trick would have liked to write over the last 30 years. It also underlines why Def Leppard took Cheap Trick on tour with them for their ‘Hysteria 30th Anniversary’ dates a few years ago, as the two bands side by side complement each other perfectly. It’s this complementary approach that Dave and the rest of Star Circus apply so well to their own brand of music.

From the opening bars of “Save Your Life”, it’s clear that the experience of playing in several bands over the years, often as stage guys left or right whose job it is to make sure the other, front and center, to look and sound as good as possible, paid off. Imagine the football manager who spent his formative years building the ultimate playbook, and now, just when it’s needed, he can unleash the “best” approach to pretty much dismiss the opposition right away.

The influences stretch far and wide, there’s even a hint at one point of Elvis Costello and the keys work of ‘Oliver’s Army’. For me that ticks a huge box as it was the first single I ever bought as a kid, handing my old £1 note (that was a thing) to the nice man at HMV and getting the photo sleeve version (rather than the paper version with a large hole in the middle) which came with a cover of “My Funny Valentine”. Aside from Costello though, this playbook which brings to the table the best of all things (including the above) means there’s absolutely something for everyone on the album that’s the hook for attract people and keep them entertained for the duration.

The band have already released around 4 singles from the album, clearly being led by the good minds in the industry to ensure they continue to fuel the fan base, spread the word and back up the tracks with selective live shows. More on the concerts at the end, but the video that really touches me is “Bridges”, especially because it contains some of the live footage I shot of the band during one of the first concerts post -COVID which the band had played at Camden Assembly. Check out the track below;

The way I write this review, lyrically waxing everything I hear, you’d think I was on the band’s payroll, but the simple answer to that is that it’s pure fun. It could easily be an album that follows the current trend of revisited classic rock, but many, many, many bands who can undoubtedly play well and put on tight gigs forget the golden rule… write memorable songs. This is where Star Circus shines.

It’s not that every track is perfect, there are a few moments where Dave really pushes his vocals to the max and maybe pushes his comfort zone with his range. The songs however, sink deep and stay there. As I type, without the album playing beside me, “Just Like In A Movie” bounces around in my brain and the smile it delivers is one that will stick around for hours.

The album can therefore be seen as a celebration of all that is past, present and future. The past celebrates the musical influences and styles that have shaped the careers of Winkler and the band. The show features an act that remembers the song is key and if it’s memorable, fans will latch onto you. The future comes with the knowledge that this is the band’s debut and if there’s more of that luscious pop rock to come, then the world will be a better place for it.

The album launch show is in London at the Underworld on November 26th. Ticket information below:

Rating 9/10

Reviewed by Adrian Hextall

Tell us how you feel