Autumn’s Child – Starflower Review

Why do these retro 80’s pop/metal knockoff records keep clogging the promo sump? And why am I the only one here willing to pry them out? And why do bands think it’s a good idea to keep making this schlock in the first place? Autumn’s Child is one of Swedish vocalist/muti-instrumentalist Mikael Erlandsson’s many projects. While not familiar with Mr. Erlandsson before I dislodged Starflower from a tar-like mass of solo black metal projects, I have since learned that he has an impressive resume that includes 14 albums with his previous band, Last Autumn’s Dream (I see a theme) and a long history with 80s Swedish new wave “supergroup,” Secret Service. With his latest album, the third as Autumn’s Child, he continues his well-traveled path of synch-drenched pop rock for the easily nostalgic. This promo is stickier than Grier’s collection of Bon Jovi tour books and the perfect soundtrack for your 1986 kickboxing/coming-of-age/romance movie. How saccharine is Starflower? We asked four out of five dentists who chew gum.

From the opening notes, you know what’s in store: soaring guitar harmonies, lush keyboards, galloping 4/4 drumbeats, Jorn-like vocals, and plenty of by-the-numbers songwriting. Its strength (?) and weakness is that it feels like you’ve already heard this album 100 times. And you probably have if you’re as olde as me or Steel. It’s a safe, familiar pop-rock record that checks all the requisite boxes while taking zero chances or attempting anything remotely interesting. The melodies are contagious, the hooks are big and the lyrics are replete with one heartbreaking repetitive chorus after another. Why someone essentially remade a Michael Bolton record and sent it to us, I have no fucking clue—but here we are. At least Mr. Bolton can say he tried out for Black Sabbath and made that Pirates of the Caribbean thing. Maybe if my coworkers would lay off the “Whole New World” Disney power metal, we wouldn’t have these problems.

While Erlandsson is a talented dude who can write, sing and play keyboards and guitars, the instrument he seems most adept at is the heartstring. Autumn’s Child’s sound is firmly rooted in the power ballad and Starflower harvests all the sap from the “Don’t Stop Believin’” tree it can. The most perplexing and bombastic of these money shots is the second single, “Opera.” It’s a curious mix of Richard Marx and Queen, complete with direct guitar swipes from “Bohemian Rhapsody.” “Dorian Gray,” “Love from Tokyo,” and “It’s Not Too Late” are more or less interchangeable and might make even Peter Cetera stab his eardrums with an ice pick.

What can I possibly say to knock this up a few half points? I do confess, I’m always impressed with the production on these records. For the sheer number of bands who want to churn out the next Rocky soundtrack, there is a seemingly equal number of producers ready to add a slick veneer to the proceedings. Erlandsson has an impressive history of bright-sounding and glossy albums, and Starflower is no exception. It has a slightly more “modern” or beefier sound than his previous album, Zenith which you probably don’t need to listen to—just trust me. It’s the type of record that will sound equally good over your dentist’s PA or on a Best Buy soundbar. While I appreciate a well-produced record, the slickness only serves to make the sentimental earworms within exponentially more miserable. Perhaps if Old Nick produced the next Autumn’s Child outing, I’d take notice. There are a handful of tunes of Starflower that I guess don’t totally suck. “The Final Call” is a curious but toe-tapping mash-up of Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl” and Steel Breeze’s “You Don’t Love Me Anymore,” but it still sounds like a B-side to “St. Elmo’s Fire.” “I Can’t Get Enough” has a bit of a dirtier Foreigner vibe to it and a decent bridge. It may be better than the Winger some by the same name. “1995” is a slightly fun trip down memory lane with more guitar than some of its neighboring tracks.

I don’t want to knock Autumn’s Child too much, but how do you make a 1.5 seem nice? They have their schtick, but it’s not likely for this crowd. If you’re looking for a novelty record to transport you to a house party with a chance that Molly Ringwald will notice you, become one of Autumn’s children. Otherwise, wait for something that sounds like 2023. Happy new year everybody!

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Pride and Joy Music
Website: Instagram/autumnschildofficial
Releases Worldwide: January 20th, 2023

« »