Lace up the platforms and let the pink boa fly — glam rock is alive and well in San Diego. Having survived hijacking in the ’80s by the new romantics and in the ’90s by goth culture, the strutting, sassy ’70s sound of Bolan, Bowie, Sweet and Glitter has found a safe spot in the arms of Louis XIV. In effect, the Cali quartet pilfers from the heavily rouged icons of yore so openly and with such exact execution that they begin to sound less like a contemporary rock band with original material and more like a genre-encompassing tribute act rivaling (and surpassing) Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Velvet Goldmine as a summation of glam’s appeal. Yes, you’ve heard it all before but, damn, if it doesn’t sound good to hear it again.
The group’s major-label debut, The Best Little Secrets Are Kept, bursts with loose, Ronsonesque chops, dramatic T. Rex strings and singer/general-string-puller Jason Hill’s Bowie-based theatrics and Ian Hunter Brit-whine. Direct references to “Neat Neat Neat,” “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” and “It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll (But I Like It)” pepper the lyrics, while Hill’s production swathes the whole affair in a glittery shine. Fortunately, Louis XIV has a keen ear, electing the best bits for this glam-centric bouillabaisse. “A Letter to Dominque” merges acid-trip doo-wop backing with steely Brian May-like guitar; “God Killed the Queen” marries Sparks’ “I Predict” with some Hives-via-Stones punkiness. Sometimes, as in “Illegal Tender,” the band forms such a beautiful combination of its influences that it actually creates something new and even better than the snotty, cocky originals. Lyrically, Hill is a pent-up horndog with nothing on his mind but glorified groupie sex. “Who’s your daddy?” he asks in the title track; “Show me a little tit,” he suggests in “Paper Doll.” The gutter talk furnishes the disc with abundant personality and places the subject matter squarely in the pre-AIDS fuck-who-you-want, say-what-you-will mindset that the music tries to emulate, but Hill’s one-track mind needs an off-ramp now and then. (Of course, when he does get serious, as in the two killjoy tracks that end the album, he comes off even more shallow and pretentious. Nigel Tufnel’s “Lick My Love Pump,” anyone?) Nevertheless, The Best Little Secrets Are Kept is a blast, from the past and otherwise.