It's now been a full ten years since I first happened upon "Aimee Echo". She was at the time over in the UK with her then band, the rather niftily named "Human Waste Project". In a schizophrenic mix of metal that sounded not unlike "Siouxsie Sioux" fronting "Korn", one thing for sure, Aimee was certainly one beautifully pissed off and determined individual. However, after a short barrage of Kerrang approved UK gigs "HWP" exploded internally almost as quickly as they did on stage.
The demise of "HWP", saw some of that band go on to become known as "Hero" and in turn moved from the harder sound of "HWP" to become an almost eighties pop/rock combo. Early on in the dawn of the new millennium, "Hero" transformed into the flamboyant art-punk rockers known as "The Start".
"Ciao Baby" is the 3rd full album from "The Start". After some dalliances with major labels for their previous two outings. (The Geffen released debut "Shakedown" and the Nitro funded follow up "Initiation"). This album sees the light of day on Metropolis Records, a label it has to be said more renowned for Industrial output such as KMFDM rather than punk/pop. This record also sees the previous 4-piece band reduced to just Aimee and long-term collaborator guitarist/synth player "Jamie Millar". Well for recording purposes at least.
With this newfound label independence also comes a new musical independence and from the off that is abundantly clear. This album takes the pop spark of their debut "Shakedown" and simply throttles the living daylights out of it. Gone are the pressures to be punk for a punk label and also seemingly gone are the worries of wearing your influences just too damn obviously close for the sake of a great song.
So with lead cut "Wartime" we get a band not afraid to be pop for the sake of it. Sounding not unlike say the great era of Duran Duran lead guitar pop from the mid eighties. This song is built on a hook big enough to land the band a massive radio hit, one that they so deservedly need.
But it doesn't stop there. Layer upon layer of synths weave a blanket of warm and inviting alternative punk pop, and tracks like "Dance Revolution" and "Just a Fantasy" evoke memories of "Flying Lizards" or "Lena Lovich" playing strange goth bedfellows with the more contemporary sound of "Sneaker Pimps" or "Goldfrapp".
The album does have rockier tracks like "Runaway" and "Surrender", but these are again sprinkled with Aimee's magical vocal/lyrical formula to make them also potential radio hits ("Surrender" in particular evokes a feel of "U2" circa their Red Rocks era, one of grandiose pomp wrapped up in a bite size chunk of 3 minute guitar pop).
To be frank, I really had feared the worst from this album, when I ordered it online about a month ago. The proposed cover art featured my favourite glam goth vixen now starting to resemble "Gwen Stefani"!!!!!! God please don't let it sound like her as well, was the only thought that crossed my mind at the time. Well I should not have worried as "Ciao Baby" is a much more focussed and complete sounding album than "Initiation" and is a natural sounding successor to the bands frankly awesome debut "Shakedown" (check it out Glitziners for a finer slice of female fronted rock you will not find).
Aimee proudly proclaims at the start of this album that "she's done some very bad things" well darling, this certainly isn't one of them.
If you want one album to put on in the car and sing out loud to this summer get "Ciao Baby" from "The Start". It truly is "pure unadulterated punk pop bliss" (now try saying that after a few sherries).
41/2 out of 5
by Johnny H.
Visit the Start Website