Track Star: Lion Destroyed the Whole World

Matthew Chabe

Track Star

Lion Destroyed the Whole World

Label: Better Looking
US Release Date: 2002-05-07
UK Release Date: 2002-07-29

Sadly, the album goes all to hell after that. To Track Star's credit, it tries damned hard to create a big, beautiful guitar-pop record, full of melody, feeling, heart-tuggieness and all the other stuff that guitar-pop aficionados look for in an album. They almost pull it off. But in the end, it all comes out a little flat. It's like fried eggs without salt. Or toast without margarine. Or beer without pretzels. Who wants beer without pretzels? Well, at a good pub, anyway -- every self-respecting pub serves pretzels, for God's sake.

Aaah, we're getting off track. The point is, it's hard these days to come up with a good, solid album of guitar-pop. It's even more difficult to come up with one that'll turn people's heads in any sort of direction. It's been that way since at least The Beatles' Please Please Me (or The Stooges' first album, maybe. It's a damned argument either way).

Today, guitar-pop bands have to contend with the specters of bands like Husker Du and The Pixies and the omnipresent onslaught of countless Weezer clones. How does a band separate itself? Most often, it doesn't. It might try -- a little halfheartedly, perhaps -- but for the most part it relies on the standbys of hit-or-miss hooks and cutesy vocals to get by.

Which is exactly what Track Star does on Lion Destroyed the Whole World. It's a decent album for what it's worth, but when it's good, it's not that good. It's always got the feeling that it's riding on the cusp of catchiness, then when you're feeling that the hook's coming, that it's about to get real good... nothing. It sticks to the same passive, mid-tempo treatment that the last track stuck to. And if you're on the third track, it's the same treatment the track before the last track got. And on down the line.

The vocal treatments of dual singer/guitarists Wyatt Cusick and Matthew Troy (they split vocal and songwriting duties) range in the middle register; most of the tracks are hushed and ostensibly heartfelt. When they do pick up, they do so only in spirit. It's as though Cusick and Troy daren't raise their voices above talking level. It's symptomatic of everything that really stunts the album -- there're just no balls to the thing. If you're going to use guitars and play rock music with them, then show some gumption. Otherwise, you're just some schlemiel with a distortion pedal and a good muting hand.

Not that Track Star is a band made up of fools. Indeed, they do show a remarkable flair for pop songwriting, borrowing from the oeuvres of oft-cited heavies such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys and late '80s radio fodder all in equal measure. Songs like "Goodbye To the Dream" and "Something To Do" make good use of Brian Wilson-esque melodies coupled with cute, crunchy alt-pop guitars. Others, like the loud-soft-loud "Pretty Close To Nothing", evoke images of The Pixies, while "October! November"'s pseudo-dark riffing brings to mind a more playful version of The Jesus and Mary Chain.

And to give credit, some songs do stand out. Though it's quite possibly due to the generally uninspiring nature of the surrounding tracks, "Amy, Tell Me Why" is a decent example of what Track Star could become if they left their whining at home and explored the deeper regions of emotion. "Cross Country", as well, is an intriguing specimen of a more experimental Track Star, one which dares to explore Pavement-esque melodic dissonance and find out that it works pretty well after all.

But on the whole, Lion Destroyed the Whole World -- as one may infer from this review -- is a bore.

Don't plan on picking up this album if you're looking for something light and engaging, or mentally challenging, or for listening to while you sweep the apartment, or for playing in your car when your friends are around. On the other hand, this is a great album to buy if you've pegged yourself "emo" and tell yourself you like this sort of drivel.

Was that last comment objective? No, not in the least. Was it the truth? Yes it was. If Track Star weren't so obsessed with being cute and soft, maybe we'd have a good album on our hands. Unfortunately, it's just not so.





Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.