Music

Starfucker: Starfucker

Electronic-tinged pop-rock that’s so jumbled and ecstatic it could only be a product of modern times.


Starfucker

Starfucker

Label: Badman
US Release Date: 2008-09-23
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Profane band names are the kind of things that either make sense or don’t. Take, for example, the Butthole Surfers -- to this day, still known as “BH Surfers” among TV and radio stations wary of the long arm of the FCC. It’s an amusingly crass name, and works decently as preparation for the dark psychedelics and noisy metal indulgences of the group’s '80s output (who knows where “Pepper” came from). Or how about Smegma, a collective of experimental musicians -- I’d like to think the name is a cheeky acquiescence to the lack of commercial prospects. Starfucker, however, only makes sense as a third-grade prank on indie-pop, which, oddly enough, is what the group's self-titled debut ends up sounding like. The music is neither confrontational nor without commercial prospects, while the lyrics eschew any grotesqueries for sing-along chants like “she / won’t have / a thing / to do / with me.”

Like a child learning to swear, Josh Hodges, the main man behind Starfucker, sounds like he’s discovered a brand new method of giggly self-expression. Starfucker doesn’t consist so much of songs as much as a collection of ideas, each its own avenue of indie pop sugar, bubbling to the surface. Exhibit A, and far and away the best cut here, is “German Love”, where we encounter the aforementioned sing-along lyrics. The only other words for the song are “German love / I will give it to you / give it to you / give it to you”, backed by a gently strummed acoustic guitar, some quirky synths, and a basic, chugging beat, interrupted at regular intervals by some gated percussion hits. It lasts a perfect three minutes, establishing its point without sticking around too long and making things awkward. Speaking of awkward, I’ll reiterate that for a song called “German Love” by a band called Starfucker, I wasn’t expecting something this pleasant.

Of all the song-balloons Hodges releases into the Sunday afternoon blue sky, none manage to soar higher than “German Love”, but, if nothing else, Starfucker proves that Hodges is a capable indie-pop chameleon. The two-minute mandolin rah-rah of “Laadeedaa” features the kitchen sink of twee -- approved percussion, including tambourines and shakers and other jangly sorts of metals and woods. Another winner is “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second”, apparently named after one of Hodges’ good friends and influences. Like the rest of the album, “Rawnald”’s lyrics aren’t anything to write home about; given the burial of Hodges’ sigh-ridden vocals, it’s possible that this is intentional. Starfucker songs bear more in common with instrumental electronic pop nuggets than other indies of the moment – think why? with a sunnier disposition. Things get mighty groovy when Hodges does focus exclusively on this kind of plinky legacy, as on “Hard Smart Beta”, a lovely number with gurgling synths reminiscent of Air or Stereolab.

The major fault with Starfucker rears its head when Hodges is content to be a little too precious. “Myke Ptyson”, with its live handclaps and yawn-worthy progression, appears to have escaped from a commercial for the next new product aimed at 20-somethings. “Miss You”, meanwhile, tries for the same forest-nymphs-playing-Stereolab vibe of “Hard Smart Beta”, but unfortunately falls flat out the gate and drags on for an unnecessary two minutes, punctuated by bubbling synths to nowhere. Oddly enough, these lesser moments feel like necessities to the whole of what Starfucker is.

It is a pop document of 2008. It is a record filled with instruments, all played and multitracked by one person, most likely in a modest little studio. It’s full of basic little repetitions and ephemera, layered together to make something more expansive than one might expect. It’s a guy with some ideas, and his attempt an intimacy in the middle of a society more interconnected than ever before. The lyrics aren’t deep, but then again trying to express something so heartfelt through words would hardly make Hodges unique, let alone its rate of failure in the modern crop of indie popsters. No, in the end, Starfucker is all the better for taking its own route. There are neither risks nor revelations here, but it’s a solid album and the product of an artist with the patience to pursue his vision and the sense of humor to still kiss off to easy classifications.

7

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image