Stars: The Comeback EP

Ben Varkentine


The Comeback EP

Label: Le Grand Magistery
US Release Date: 2001-09-25

Stars is a four-piece electronic pop band currently based in Montreal. At the Darla records site, Stars vocalist Torquill Campbell describes their last CD, the album Nightsongs as "a loving pastiche". That may well be; it's true that you could tell by listening to it that the band had something of a '80s obsession (the Smiths cover should have tipped you off). But it was also the kind of wonderful album that hearing is like making a connection with a stranger (especially if you share said '80s obsession. And let's not kid ourselves.). This was one of the finest records of 2001.

The Comeback sees Stars solidifying their songcraft. And now the time has come in this review for a bold pronouncement, so here it is: 20 years from now, we'll think of this EP as "The one with 'The Aspidistra Files' on it." This song is one of the best pieces of material Stars have produced in their 20 recorded songs of existence. To say that a song is the best out of 20 may not seem like much compared to the catalog of oh, say, Paul McCartney, but considering that Nightsongs contained such gems as "Counting Stars on the Ceiling" and "Going, Going Gone", it's out of this world. "All the umbrellas in London couldn't hide my love for you," Campbell sings in a hushed tone. The whimsical lyric of "Aspidistra" is equaled by the sweetness of the multi-tracked vocal; it's as though Andy Partridge had written a song for the Bee Gees. Campbell sounds like someone puttering around an empty house, sure that he'll see a new lover again, but not knowing where or when. Like a lot of effective love songs, there's as much wishful thinking as statements of fact in this one. And Stars seem like they know it, but like to sing the songs anyway.

The best realized song besides "Aspidistra Files" is "Krush", with it's descending keyboard hook. "Violent" comes in third, though a live drummer playing less staggering (as in drunken, not great) beats would make more of it. But then, in general I prefer a more pounding beat to the skittering, drum & bass-esque ones Stars sometimes use, which is my only real complaint about the band.

If I had to describe Stars to someone in only two words, those words would be, "beautiful hope". Not to put too fine a point on it, but we could all use a little beautiful hope right now. Even if there's not much to hope for. Because of that, Stars should be much valued by pop fans.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

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

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