Album Review: Ron Gallo – ‘Stardust Birthday Party’

Ron Gallo

This is a re-uploaded post. 

Ron Gallo is the type of artist who loves to keep his audience on their toes. Sure, his debut album, RONNY in 2014 may have been seeped in country music tones, but he really found his footing with last year’s Heavy Meta. The garage rock driven album worked because of Gallo’s wild personality and loads of charisma. It was only further bolstered by the fact that his lyrics were sharp and critical toward society in the modern age. He was an asshole to be perfectly honest, but it’s not like what he was saying wasn’t true, especially when he was critical of himself as well.

That blend continued on his EP, Really Nice Guys from earlier this year, with his observations this time around centering on the music business and his place in it. Beyond its framing though, Really Nice Guys showed a shift in direction in more than one category. For starters, he included skits, and his messages were more on the nose than subtle like they were on Heavy Meta. This was fine for an EP, especially one as great was that one was, but it did make listeners wonder what his next full-fledged album would sound like.

Stardust Birthday Party is a strange album to talk about for that reason. It’s way more eccentric than his previous works because it operates as an actual album. For new Gallo fans, this really isn’t the place to start, but Stardust Birthday Party is an interesting listen that offers a lot of layers that need to be unpacked.

What hasn’t changed is Gallo himself. His goofy mannerisms in songs (which he makes work) are still as prevalent as ever and probably more on full display than ever before. The vocal layering on “The Password” is one example, as is the slight craziness of “Do You Love Your Company?” where Gallo sounds he like he’s losing his mind by its end.

As expected by now, the message this time around has shifted once again. Whereas Heavy Meta found him attacking people and society from the outside, Stardust Birthday Party finds him getting in the listener’s mind. Some have called it philosophical and while that’s a fair assessment, it’s also a statement on the general mood in 2018 as well.

While not quite wrapped in intricate metaphors or stories like on Heavy Meta, this album does offer its fair share of brilliance. “Prison Decor” acts as a metaphor for the mind and our self-consciousness, with us getting everything ready for the world to see because we’re more inclined to share our personal lives on social media. Like Gallo constantly repeats, “what do you think of me?” is the general question we try to answer in this fishbowl society.

That’s the general message of this album – insecurity and worrying what others think about us. “Party Tumor” deals with that and also adds a dose of brashness by criticizing our need to be heard “anytime and anywhere,” as if we’re experts on whatever subject we’re talking about even if half the time, we really don’t know what we’re talking about.

” ‘You’ Are The Problem,” by far the longest song on the project, may take time to wind up, but the slightly psychedelic, atmospheric instrumentation turns into a full-fledged rocker by its end, criticizing our want and need for change even though we don’t do anything about it.

Again though, the thing with Gallo is that he’s never one to pass judgment without pointing the finger at himself as well. The skit, “OM” finds his mind literally telling him that no matter what Gallo does, he can’t shut him off, meaning Gallo thinks the same thoughts he’s criticizing. On “The Password,” he admits he doesn’t know the answers either, and on tracks like “It’s All Gonna Be OK” and “Happy Deathday,” he questions if any of it matters since we’re not here long enough to make that difference anyway. It’s not the brightest or helpful solution, but it’s all he’s got.

Admittedly though it’s that perspective that can make parts of the album feel incomplete or scattershot. “I Wanna Die (Before I Die)” is completely nonsensical, and even Gallo himself says that during the track. “Bridge Crossers” feels out of place and not helpful to the album’s message. Even “It’s All Gonna Be OK,” for as blunt as it is with its message, feels like it’s offering an answer without a clear solution.

That’s ultimately the problem at times – most of these songs are under two minutes. They don’t get time to develop, relying more on Gallo’s performance to carry the heavy lifting. Unfortunately they don’t always do that.

Because of that, it also leaves the instrumentation and production undercooked at times. Killer grooves and riffs are a healthy part of tracks such as “Party Tumor” and “Prison Decor,” but on the other hand, it’s just when you start getting wrapped up in the hurricane that is “It’s All Gonna Be OK” that starts to cool down for the last minute or so. “I Wanna Die (Before I Die)” feels like generic lighter rock. Again, it tries to cram so much in without letting the best parts fully develop or give the listener something to really latch onto. Still, there is a healthy amount of variety, such as the acoustic, bluesy “Happy Deathday” or the fuzzed out garage rock of “Always Elsewhere.”

Overall, while Stardust Birthday Party is a bit scattershot, Gallo is too smart of an artist not to craft something great. His delivery is as strong as ever, and when he makes a point, he makes one that sticks in the listener’s mind. It could have been more fully developed, but Stardust Birthday Party is a nice reminder to not give a care about what anyone says …

… sort of like how Gallo really won’t care about what was said here. That’s a good thing.

  • Best tracks: “Party Tumor,” ” ‘You’ Are The Problem,” “Prison Decor,” “Happy Deathday”
  • Worst track: “Bridge Crossers”

(07/10)

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