The Stills: Logic Will Break Your Heart

[20 October 2003]

By Stephen Haag

It’s been about a year or so since Turn On the Bright Lights hit CD shelves and the first wave of Interpol-apers have struck already. Whoever, outside of NYC hipsters, rock critics and long-suffering Joy Division fans (and yes, I know that if you’re one of the above, you’re also probably the other two types as well) anointed Interpol as Trendsetters remains to be seen, but here we are. It’s just as well that one of the first bands falling in line for the newest wave of ‘80s-tinged arty gloom rock just so happens to have opened up for Interpol this summer—Montreal-based four-piece the Stills. And, I’m happy to report, their debut LP, Logic Will Break Your Heart, is every bit the equal to Bright Lights. A collective sigh is heard across Indie Nation.

So yes, the Stills sound a lot like Interpol. And by that I mean they sound a lot like Echo and the Bunnymen and the aforementioned Joy Division. Nearly every song on Logic is chockablock with nervy, noirish guitars seemingly custom-built for pensive late-night listening. And they’re literary in the way that good arty rock bands are—lead singer Tim Fletcher magically makes lines like “I stumble out of the nightclub thinking angels and insects don’t do drugs” (“Angels and Insects”) hummable. That kind of near-shoegazing lyricism is a dime a dozen, admittedly, but the Still have enough other weapons in their arsenal to justify the hype.

Greg Paquet’s guitar swirls around Fletcher like “Lola Stars and Stripes” and “Changes Are No Good”, and with some speaker-jumping, completely envelopes “Angels and Insects” in a narcotized cocoon. And, if “Ready For It” and album closer “Yesterday Never Tomorrows” are any indication, Paquet never met an ethereal, floating-in-space coda he didn’t like. Those codas shine a true light on the band: for all the tortured lyrics and dark guitars, the Stills are (ahem) still capable of creating beautiful music that soars.

The do manage to let their air down in a few places, too. “Of Montreal” scuffs up the polished sound and will leave you wishing they spent more time in the garage; “Let’s Roll” sounds like the Stills never heard of Interpol, and with its huge drums (courtesy Dave Hamelin) and furious guitar, its provides the first moment on Logic when it dawns on you that the Stills are a damn fine band in their own right.

But for all the deserved acclaim—they’ve already landed a profile in Entertainment Weekly and have toured with Interpol, the Rapture, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and every other post-post-post-post punk band within shouting distance of the 212 area code—it’s still too early to place the Stills in the Guaranteed Next Big Thing category. In certain circles they already are, but can the underground hype withstand mainstream scrutiny? My bet-hedging answer? Hopefully. Beautiful, downbeat songs never go out of style—why else would we be sitting here lauding the Stills and Interpol for cribbing from 20-year-old albums like Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ocean Rain?—and the Stills fit the dark tenor of our times as well as forebears such as Joy Division fit theirs. Is it all just a case of history repeating itself? Regardless, it’s unfair to pronounce Logic Will Break Your Heart as one of the albums that could revive intelligent art rock, but it makes the case that the scene is as alive and appropriately downtrodden as ever.

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