The problem with music of Major Stars’ nature—which constitutes the thrashier side of the post-rock spectrum—is that to make sense of the seemingly random jam sessions and chaotic rambling layers that constitute tracks, your mind must be in some kind of drug-induced altered state.
Unfortunately, for Mr. Straight Edge over here, artificial substances are a bit in short supply. Thus, I did the next best thing—I lay on the coach and waited for that phase of slumber which is the state between wakefulness and light sleep. Though I was still aware of my surroundings, I was still capable of reverie. It is in this prone position that 4 seeped and colored my consciousness—for where drugs are absent, dreams will suffice.
So, originality may not actually be part of the equation. The more structurally conventional tracks like “How to Be” and “All or Half the Time” are nothing but slightly more virtuoso Marillion knock-offs. After hearing the wonders of oddballs like Fantomas, Pak and even the populist Explosions in the Sky, Major Stars are an overglorified jam band at best, boasting nothing outstanding other than the fact that they know how to tug at the resolve with the familiar classic rock bag-of-tricks that they have. No riff is too nostalgic, no lick too familiar, no solo left untouched for these curators of the Cream / Hendrix / Pink Floyd back catalogue. True to its title, the EP is a four-track fest of familiar elements which, when thrown together at random moments, seem inexplicably to gel together through sheer force of will.
And in my abovementioned inebriated state, I was on a roll of a lifetime, man.
“Song for Turner” evoked some random countryside, more specifically, the scenery of the movie Badlands, where the dustiness of Montana was choking me up. I was Martin Sheen, and I was frolicking with Sissy Spacek in the massive loneliness of the desert ocean. There was adventure. There was danger. The rambunctious journey was thankfully interspersed with tender salaciousness. I was hurtling forward in an unending motion, where ambling was key to keeping sane with all that speed.
The last song, “Phantom #1”, is a phenomenal one. If the crucifixion of Jesus Christ had a soundtrack, this would be the background music of choice. Far from the traditional piety and sad strings that might accompany a reenactment in some random church’s Easter play, Major Stars got the spirit right. The epic Steve Vai licks, grinding guitars and propulsion of drums captured the fierce battle that was going on between heaven and hell on that fateful night in Calvary. Every fuzzed downstroke was a swipe of the sword, every trembling vibrato a minion’s bloodcurdling demise. It was as if Jehovah, general of the good guys, was channeling the Spongebob Squarepants Movie as he controlled the battle sequences with his formidable lead guitar, strategizing a Stratocaster salvation. And as we build up towards the climax—the Son’s arms outstretched, a bloodshot gaze towards heaven—he mouths “Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani” before breathing his last.
Suddenly, I realized I had been purified by those blessed musical layers.
In that light, it is perhaps ironic that as I awaken, my gesture of appreciation is the devil’s horn I hold up triumphantly in the air.
There is an exclamation of a sigh, a breathy “f-f-f-fuck”. It’s the expletive expressed via way of an Ani diFranco snarl, a teeth-gritted expression of repressed negative emotions that is grateful for any avenue of expression. It is the sound of a satisfying climax. What an awesome ride.
And without the aid of mushrooms at that.
// Notes from the Road
"We’re coming to see HEALTH for the experience, for the kind of intense musical attack that leaves one needing a stiff drink...READ the article