Wet, lipsticky kisses; bubbling spoon-water; piss and vinegar, gin and sweat, mascara and witch hazel: Liquid is the state of existence of everything in the music of Pittsburgh glam-rockers Science Fiction Idols. In the Idols' world, lipstick and tongues mesh with bottles and blood, "Venom Tastes Like Wine," and New York City is a town best known for its, um, spurts of precious-metal-colored rainfall. Even guitarists Bobby LaMonde and Gary Strutt's mercurial, fingernail-kissed guitar wails seep like pin-pricked silicon.
Pittsburgh has long been a city dominated by glittering guitars and midnight-movie lyrics -- a city where, to this day, Cheap Trick is celebrated in song. But since 2003's Spooky Sugar -- a triumph of sugar-syrup pop and trashy rock 'n' roll tainted by dirty minds and dirtier guitars -- even amongst the garage-band surplus of the Steel City, Science Fiction Idols have been top of the heap. With Diamonds and Demons, the Idols restate their position as the liquid leaders of the free-glam world: Like some kind of Oliver Twist in eyeliner, the band has returned to rock's shimmering trough after finishing its plate of Micks (that's Ronson guitar solos and Jagger handclaps) and asked for more, more, more.
Maybe the most formidable change on Diamonds and Demons is the solidification of guitarist Gary Strutt as an equal partner to Bobby LaMonde in the singing/songwriting side of the band. Strutt's songs here prove to be some of the most vital on the disc, whether he's singing (as on the opening salvo, "I Want You to Lie," a rock-radio hit if ever there was one) or handing his tunes off for LaMonde to handle. The latter's the case on "Bubblegum Blues," possibly the best song the Science Fiction Idols have recorded to date. Not content to merely parry their obvious influences -- T. Rex, Bowie, Thunders, Stones -- on "Bubblegum Blues," the Idols seem to be reaching back and corrupting those same pre-trash sounds that their own idols corrupted: The proto-sleaze of rockabilly and the "daddy's little girl" pomp-pop of Frankie Valli or Dion, cranked up on cheap wraps of amphetamine and flushed down the toilet when the cops are near. Drummer Angel O joins the writing fray with Strutt on the almost tender "Mystery and Magic," a hat-tip to mid-'80s glam balladeering.
That's not to say that LaMonde doesn't still have his glam chops down. Such as "Under My Halo," a stomping monster-mash ("halos over the horns again"), or the degenerate conceptualism of "Bag O' Spiders" ("You've got a bag o' spiders / I got a mouth of mama's mice").
The fact is, Diamonds and Demons is just another rock 'n' roll record by just another rock 'n' roll band. But the Idols aren't out to change the world -- at least not permanently; maybe just for one night. And as far as those moments go, when you can cast off reality and step, high-heeled boot first, onto the "Planets of Love," into the Sci-Fi alternate reality, it might be one of the best medicinal rock records this year.