Masterfully mixing glam showmanship with gritty Sunset Strip attitude, Tsar’s “Band Girls Money” is one of the best rock albums so far this year.
Full of glossy vocals, playful lyrics and infectious guitar riffs, it delivers one power-pop punch after another on such songs as “Superdeformed,” and “Conquerer Worm.”
The title track/lead single is featured in a national Napster/Nestle Crunch ad campaign; that could give Tsar enough exposure to grab the brass ring. – Katy Kroll
Reeking with a combination of the rebellion of The Stooges and the glam-pop swagger of T-Rex, TSAR resurrects the seventies underground with “fuck you” arrogance. Formed in Los Angeles, TSAR released their critical acclaimed self-titled debut on Hollywood Records in 2000. After moving to TVT Records founding members, vocalist Jeff Whalen and guitarist Daniel Kern commissioned a new drummer, Check Byler and bass player Derrick Forget. The change in rhythm section revitalized and altered the make-up of the band.
Unlike the Weezer-esque timbre of the first record, this sophomore set is in your face with very little over-the-top production; just straight rock and roll. The songs on Band-Girls-Money are short, sweet, and tight with a poppy sashay reminiscent of Dream Police-era Cheap Trick. Front man Jeff Whalen struts through each track backed by raunchy guitar riffs and torrential drumming. If TSAR has a message it would clearly be one of defiance as they lyrically rail against the “system.” However, this LA quartet is not nearly as political as they are campy and fun.
In the age of cookie cutter garage rock bands, TSAR stand alone as totally unique by revitalizing a sub-genre of rock-n-roll that time had almost forgotten. – Tony Engelhart
“We’re a hall of mirrors,” says Tsar’s candy-voiced singer Jeff Whalen. He must mean vanity mirrors — Tsar is one of a few rock bands wearing makeup these days for something other than gothic effect — because this retro-glam LA quartet can be a tricky beast to identify. With one foot in the Bay City Rollers’ toy shop and the other in the Dead Boys’ gutter, the new Band-Girls-Money is harder than the band’s 2000 self-titled debut, but the tunes are still top-down driving music, acutely infectious and liable to drive up the demand among men for platform boots and lip gloss. – Andrew Marcus
Glam is back indeed. I was really into Tsar’s self-titled debut album from back in 2000 and was kinda curious what happened to them. While it may be unfair to completely call Tsar “Glam”, they do take many influences from past artists. Regardless, Tsar is back with the dreaded sophomore album and succeed quite easily. The band rocks out hard on the title track, ushering you into the album. It’s along the lines of something The (International) Noise Conspiracy would do, with just as much energy. They follow it up with “Wanna Get Dead”, a fantastic power-pop track with the chugga-chugga guitars and a very melodic chorus. It’s tracks like “Wrong” that give the Tsar boys the glam feel. A very polished and poppy track that glimmers like nobodies business. Band-Girls-Money is a great album, maybe not quite as polished and complete as their debut but a fine album as well. Call Tsar glam, call them power-pop, whatever, bottom-line is that Tsar does rock hard and deserve some airplay and some attention. You can never go wrong with good, raunchy guitars and slick vocals. Four Stars – Dennis Scanland
LA Weekly Spaceland 7/8/05
No power ballads! We like that. Instead, a lotta very, very tuff yet heart-tugging true-rock glitter & grime, showing no mercy and steeding swift like the clock does tick. Tsar — Great Rock Hopes five years ago/lost their major-label deal/didn’t puss out/etc. — are now pumped ’n’ primed to be the Genuine Rock Stars they were born to be. Witness this Comeback Special, where they came on All Young Dudes/Banana Splits/sassy funny fun rock smack in the middle of saggy Silver Lake, a Tsar of wild, wild youth and unchained melody. Fun, yet Tsar have a lot at stake — you can hear it in the dark depth of their tunes and the wry passion of their performance.
So, runny mascara, big puffy lips, hands on hips, billowing fog and a Kiss-my-cheese flashing logo: Tsar mainman Jeff Whalen enters the stage draped in American flag like a cape, nice snotty bit of symbolism for this, yes, great rock unit brimming with actual triffic melodic (no BS) songs and a mind-blowing technical facility (tight!) for bringing the real goods back for a generation in true need, like a rocket fulla glammy-punky Captain Americas high on pop clichés and smart enough to have alchemized the juice.
As Whalen puffs his cigs and twitches and roars and preens and cajoles and tears his hair and rips his lungs & heart out, and his comparatively stoic lead-guitar buddy Daniel Kern applies the sonic sizzle (along with the warhorse-not-drayhorse new rhythm section of Chuck Byler, drums, and Derrick Forget, bass & vocals & pouts), the band just plain blows through a nonstop, hi-hi-NRG set of things mostly taken from the ace new Band–Girls–Money, and it’s — okay, it’s like the Archies meet the Ramones, or ELO humping BTO, and a grand finale of Buzzcocks briefing BOC. Whalen’s songcraft is such seriously persuasive stuff, each song’s an overture ensconcing every classic pop-punk experience you ever had, and fooling you into figuring you never heard it before.
They think ambitious, yet they aren’t pretench-ish. Watching them smoke these tunes onstage was exhilarating, inspiring and, most important, very, very funny. – John Payne
Tsar’s 2000 debut was an excellent yet poorly marketed album. Combining elements of bubblegum pop with a harder edge it wildly underachieved. As a consequence the label dropped the band-a bitter irony when you consider the lack of effort put in by Hollywood records- a decision compounded by the fact that they were none too impressed with the follow up.
Apparently its lack of radio friendly attributes sent Tsar packing into the great corporate dustbin. TVT records had the common sense to ransack the bin to release this worthy second effort.
Whereas the debut was as smooth as a baby’s backside with Rob Cavallo’s production dominating, “Band Girls Money” is as rough as wiping the same baby’s backside with sandpaper.
Taking their lead from anyone from the New York Dolls, Cheap Trick and Brit glam rockers The Sweet through to Red Kross, Tsar cook up a tasty pot of trashy hard rock. The smooth pomp of the debut is wrenched aside and in its place comes a raging lip stick wearing pit-bull with a sweet tooth. Songs like the revved up title track, the catchy trash pop of “The Love Explosion” and the T-Rex influenced
“Superdeformed” exemplify rock in its lowest denominator. The faint hearted should step aside now and leave Tsar to swagger on down the sunset strip, with sweat, honesty and a touch of eyeliner. three and a half stars – Mike
2005 release from this band that totally POPPED Not Lamers back in 1998…and then the major dropped. Old Story, New Ending. This is not the power pop style that many may be hoping for, but this smoking gun of pop slinger kicks out the jams with explosively raw riffs, shiny hooks and jackhammer choruses. One of the best, hard rocking, kick ass rock-via-pop albums of 2005. Yes, not for folks quesy about volume, but if you do like it loud is glam pop of the finest sort. “A trash-glam masterpiece. `Band-Girls-Money` is made to be played at the Rainbow Room while…Slash sprawls unconscious across the bar.” – Boulder Weekly. “Think punk, glam and British Invasion–Cheap Trick, New York Dolls, Sweet and the Beatles.” -Knight-Ridder Newspapers. “TSAR pounds and swings the boogie harder and sweeter than ever.”-Village Voice. It`s not the old Tsar, but the new one is *still* Extremely Highly Recommended! (site includes 4 downloadable mp3s)
How odd that a rock band can be an anachronism in this day and age.
In the case of Tsar, TVT Records’ newest family member, they’re emerging onto the national scene in an era of Mancunian moping and Gang of Four idolatry.
Somehow, tried-and-true rock ‘n’ roll fundamentals have been fallen by the wayside. Tsar is that rare band that isn’t easily categorized, or easily swayed by trends.
“My brothers are all proud rockers,” sings frontman Jeff Whalen in the blistering “Startime,” one of ten songs on Tsar’s debut, Band-Girls-Money. Part glam sex-pose, part punk sneer, part pop craftsmanship, Band-Girls-Money synthesizes decades of music history and combines with contemporary zeal to create three-minute bursts of energy.
The savvy listener will hear traces of power pop legends Cheap Trick and Sweet, as well as the three-chord attack of the Dead Boys, the glam appeal of T-Rex and the Dolls, and the showmanship of Alive-era KISS. Whalen, the band’s primary songwriter, has a pure bubblegum past – and you can hear that, too. His favorite bands are The Monkees, The Archies and Tommy James. “I have a belief that all really great bands are not the genre the people associate them with. They’re actually pop bands. It’s always the bands with good songs that outlast any trends or styles.”
Combine Whalen’s countless hours with such a record collection with Tsar’s here-and-now sound and you’ve got music that’s utterly contemporary, completely free of stereotype and above all pure rock. “With us, it’s kind of impossible to say what kind of music we are other than rock and roll,” he says.
Seeing them play live is the best way to appreciate this well-oiled sonic machine. In their native city of LA, crowds have grown to appreciate the band’s energetic gigs. A “Tsar” sign straight out of a Vegas chorus line’s dressing room flashes behind the four members’ sweaty performance. The PA system strains under the force of dual guitar distortion and a pummeled bass. It’s rock showmanship. Short songs and long on emotion.
“You wanna get that rock and roll desire,” explains Whalen of performing on stage. “It’s really powerful. It involves embracing the ludicrousness of what’s happening. I’m going to stand up here and dance around and everybody’s gonna look at me. The times you really enjoy the show are the times you really don’t know what you’re doing and nothing is planned. When it’s working, it’s a great symbiosis.”
so the question is, why havent you gotten band girls money yet?