“It’s Not the Same As Love,” the new Starship album’s lead track, bursts out with a lean, tough attitude — and Mickey Thomas rarely takes his foot off the gas again. Forget MTV-era hits like “We Built this City” and “Sara.” Instead, Loveless Fascination boasts a straight-forward melodic-rock approach more in keeping with his tenure in the band when it still had “Jefferson” in the name. Think “Jane” or “Find Your Way Back,” rather than the soundtrack to “Mannequin.”
Though it quickly connects back to that turn-of-the-1980s era, Loveless Fascination, due September 17, 2013 from Loud and Proud Records, finds Thomas collaborating not with familiar figures from the Jefferson Starship/Starship lineage like Craig Chaquico but with Foreigner bassist Jeff Pilson — whose presence proved to be a catalyst for Starship’s first album of new material since 1989′s Love Among the Cannibals. Starship is rounded out these days by guitarist John Roth, bassist Jeff Adams, drummer Darrell Verdusco, vocalist Stephanie Calvert and keyboardist Phil Bennett.
Together, they fashioned a title track with this itchy little riff, laid over a funky groove — and one of Thomas’ most resonate wails. Elsewhere, “What Did I Ever Do” finds Thomas exploring the darker tones that age have opened up in his voice. “Don’t Deny Me” and “Where Did We Go Wrong,” at least musically, might come closest to recapturing the sweet romanticism of Starship’s mid-1980s era of chart domination, but even here, Thomas sings with a far more visceral emotion. You’d have to go much further back, to his work with Elvin Bishop, to find its equal.
In a larger way, Pilson’s previous tenures in heavy-rocking acts seem to have sharpened Starship to a serrated edge throughout Loveless Fascination. Tracks like the power ballad “How Do You Sleep” and, in particular, the howling rocker “Technicolor Black and White” work as a kind of modern-day update to the best moments from 1984′s Tooth and Nail and 1993′s Strange Highways by Dokken and Dio, respectively.
But only in part. The truth is, this is a whole new synthesis — a collaboration that takes in elements of their shared histories, and emerges with something flinty and entirely brand new.