All Access Rating: B+
|U.F.O. - A Conspiracy of Stars 2015|
As Mogg sings about stepping over the prone body of a champ "past his prime," he still sounds as if he's ready to take on all comers and knock them flat on their sorry asses with sturdy, gritty tales about hardship, survival and the dark side of romantic attachment and emotion.
His lyrics are as sharp and pointed as ever, his economy of language and astute, if somewhat cynical, observations of human relations still jarringly poetic, as he talks of love and possession in the violent, well-structured opener "The Killing Kind," a song covered in melodic ivy hiding a rhythmic brick wall. The weatherbeaten "Devils in the Details" is similarly constructed, with A Conspiracy of Stars – out soon via Steamhammer/SPV and produced by Chris Tsangarides, once a 14-year-old studio trainee on the band's 1970 debut UFO 1– coming off as a series of bare-knuckled, bluesy hard-rock combination punches, the meanest being "Run Boy Run" and "Messiah Of Love," with their nasty grooves plowed into hard ground.
Nothing else on the occasionally generic A Conspiracy of Stars has the confident swagger and rough swing of "Ballad of the Left Hand Gun," although "Sugar Cane" comes awfully close, as UFO flexes its muscle with Paul Raymond's simmering, smoggy keyboards and Vinnie Moore's tastefully executed guitar leads menacing the rugged work of drummer Andy Parker and bassist Rob DeLuca. The hooks of A Conspiracy of Stars grab for a sure foothold, and more often than not, their grip is strong, as with "The Real Deal," which sounds a bit like the Rolling Stones of more recent vintage. Often, the record, so full of good, solid rock songs that consistently hit that sweet spot, has all the rush of a cocaine binge, and although it was recorded in Britain, it feels American, rough and ornery but also full of heart and the wisdom that comes with age.
– Peter Lindblad