Indie Shred: Major Stars will never mellow out.

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Nobody can shred like Major Stars. Indeed, most bands just don’t have the infrastructure. The Boston-based sextet packs three full-time guitarists, each of whom performs at ear-flaying volume and works a wah-wah pedal like 1969 never ended. When Major Stars opens up the throttle, the wailing is as dense as Dinosaur Jr. jamming on top of a Blue Cheer CD. This onslaught continues on the band’s seventh record, Return to Form. In a sense, everybody in Major Stars is playing lead guitar. But Wayne Rodgers—who founded the band alongside his wife Kate Village—is the leader of leads. On album opener “Better Stay Down” he holds back for all of one minute, allowing vocalist Sandra Barrett to deliver a couple of verses before letting loose with the torrent of high-gain shrieks. This is a refinement: On past records, sidelong jams were not uncommon, and songwriting was viewed as a necessary evil. But ever since acquiring Barrett as frontwoman for 2007’s Mirror/Messenger, the band has used her Ann Wilson–worthy vocals to guide it in and out of the din. In fact, Return to Form’s best moments are surprisingly succinct. On “Two Degrees” the group manages to cram the whole Major Stars formula—verse, riff, verse, Keith Moon-style drum fill, squealing feedback—into just two-and-a-half minutes. Back in the ’80s even R&B stars like Prince were free to shred at length. But these days, even Sonic Youth, the premier guitar band of its generation, is often loathe to really whip the riffs. Major Stars remain oblivious to this adjustment to the guitar solo’s cultural import. Return to Form’s title suggests that at some point during the band’s decade-long career, the band got away from the face-scrunching solos. It could only be meant as a joke, though. Major Stars will never mellow out.