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All the Young Dudes 

Glitter-glam revival via three generations of noise

Glam or glitter rock may've had its official heyday in the early '70s, but plenty contemporary bands proceed as if there's been no punk or hip-hop interval since Ziggy Stardust's fall from grace. Just ask fine local group the New Blacks, who infuse Sunset Strip metal into their heavy mix. If vintage glam was a backlash against the "Beatles 'n' Stones" of its fans' elder siblings -- as well as a perversion of the '60s flower children's Love Revolution -- then current glam is a reaction to the Neanderthal posturing of grunge and its ugly little brother, rap-rock. When the press for New York's New Rock City cadre of bands focused on what hipster threads Strokes' frontman Julian Casablancas donned, full-on resurgence of rock & roll dandyism was inevitable. But then there's also the bad press, with glam godfather Gary Glitter back in the news for paying off the Thai families whose children he's accused of sexually abusing.

One doesn't want to tarnish emerging bands with Glitter's perverted legacy. However, since the classic rock that some of these groups aspire to emulate was rife with exploitation of underage girls, it must be mentioned. Hopefully, none of the current crop of Strip dandies will be getting up to Mick Jagger- and Jimmy Page-style sexual shenanigans. Should you have prurient interest in what I refer to, consult super groupie Pamela Des Barres' recently reissued pillow book, I'm With the Band (Chicago Review Press; **1/2). Des Barres is still kicking around the hipper precincts of LA-LA Land, as a sort of demimondaine eldress of insurgent country and keeper of Gram Parsons' flame. But this tell-all delves into the nitty-gritty of her affairs with a slew of classic rockers, including Jagger and Page, as well as her marriage to one-time glam pinup Michael DesBarres of '70s rock band Silverhead.

As the son of legendary Mamas & Papas producer and Monterey Pop promoter Lou Adler, singer Cisco, frontman of current LA band Whitestarr, naturally would evolve toward a vintage-rock sound. The quintet is a part of a Malibu Inn/West Hollywood-centered subculture that yens for longhair rock; the scene already has been touted by the New York Times. Whitestarr's press photo displays the band as quintessential postwar California boys, laid back and insouciant in colorful hip threads, against a Pacific-and-dunes backdrop. The group's debut, Luv Machine (Contango; ***), due in April, makes clear where the band's head is at -- whiskey-soaked blooze swagger with hooks a go-go. Whitestarr serves its electric lady muse on such telling cuts as: "Sunshine Girl," "Vampire," "Cherry Surprise" and the title track. "Gimme A Light" actually includes the lyric: "If you want sex, I can put on T.Rex/And we can bang a gong all night." Cisco Adler's serviceable rasp reveals him as an acolyte of the Paul Rodgers school. Our boys also try to get funky with a cover of "Use Me," which sounds like David Essex sitting in for Bill Withers. All in all, if you hold your "been there, done that" trigger in abeyance and appreciate the plangent hybrids of post-Black Crowes cock rock, Whitestarr is great fun.

The Vacation, which performed here in March, closely follows Whitestarr's po-mo sex-drugs-rockanroll template, presumably by osmosis. (One critique: "More cowbell.") Reverence for the Strip milieu most recently inhabited by Guns 'N Roses and Mötley Crüe in the late '80s abounds on the group's self-titled debut (American; **1/2). These titles give it away: "Destitute Prostitutes," "Hollywood Forever" and the appropriately lurching freak-out "Liquid Lunch." As fronted by twins Ben and Steve Tegel, the band differs from fellow Hollyweird rockers in that the Vacation's scope extends to the Sex Pistols, and Ben Tegel often sounds like Jello Biafra. Overall, the group reps for the next stage of evolution, with fuzzy rawness derived from those great Stones idolaters, the Flamin' Groovies and the Chesterfield Kings.

Clear Static, another LA group that recently rolled through the Queen City, shows up for the early-1980s party on its eponymous debut (Maverick; **1/2). Adding new wave to the swirl, synth chill and eyeliner androgyny accentuate the group's mash-up of the Fixx, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran -- for whom Clear Static served as opener recently. "Dancing With Strangers" is a not-so-oblique reference to one of Rupert Everett's key '80s vehicles -- hmm -- and "Love Rockets" is merely missing the "and." Those cunning New Romantics ride again.

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