Reviewed by Kit Burns
Shelby Nelson/Stars to Sail By
Miss Britpop? You probably do. After all, the mid-’90s invasion of U.K. retro rockers (Oasis, Blur, etc) didn’t last long stateside as many Americans seem to have forgotten how appealing those English accents and Beatlesque melodies were, eventually overshadowed by the icky likes of rap-metal, Nickelback, and emo. Well, for those who have a taste for the Brits will certainly embrace Canada-based Shelby Nelson, who wears his affection for John Lennon, Pink Floyd, and Oasis on his sleeves.
Thankfully, while Nelson’s influences are easily apparent to the educated ear, he isn’t copping anybody’s licks here unlike Oasis which proudly confessed their Fab Four theft (but they were so good at it we didn’t give a damn). “Intro” is spacey Pink Floyd-ish prog rock; it seemed oddly out of place at first but then I realized it does establish Nelson’s preference towards a bigger rock sound. “The Parasite and the Ghost” is powered by thunderously huge drums and stadium-sized guitar riffs while “In For the Night” is illuminated by shimmering, radiant hooks. “When You’re Feeling Better” echoes Pink Floyd’s distinctly English sensibilities but with more a emotionally accessible approach. Probably the biggest shocker here is “Caught in a Sweet Vibration” which aims for the wiggly synths and robotic cool vocals of the Cars’ late ’70s New Wave.
Read Full Post »
Reviewed by Mondo Castro
Starsailor/On the Outside
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Their third release sees Starsailor treading the same path where previous albums Love Is Here and Silence Is Easy were conceived. The band’s sound and singer/guitarist James Walsh’s overwrought singing is deeply influenced by the indie-guitar Brit-pop scene of the 90’s even as their sensibilities hinge on troubadours Nick Drake, Neil Young, and Tim Buckley (whose 1970 album gave the band its name). In fact, the songs that populate On The Outside seem to be a continuation of preceding albums. A trilogy, if you may. Their very own take of The Cure’s concept of interrelated albums: Pornography, Disintegration, and Bloodflowers.
Hampered by middle-of-the-road tags by the media, the somewhat heavier guitar work appears to be a direct reaction to the stifling cubbyhole curse. The driving “Way Back Home,” one of the best tracks, is anchored on the churning bass lines of James Stelfox and the sturdy drumming of Ben Byrne. Another gem is “Keep Us Together” wherein the chorus and the Walsh’s triumphant bellowing have echoes of Simple Minds and U2. On the other hand, tracks like “Get Out While You Can” and “In My Blood” are songs that we’ve come to expect from the band: transcendent, earnest, and resolute.
However, the ‘ooomph’ in it all is set by keyboardist Barry Westhead, dexterously painting the canvas with ’70s fills but never overtakes nor falls behind. Adding beautiful textures to already larger-than-life songs, Westhead undeniably is as central a figure as Walsh.
Still uplifting and grandiose, Starsailor aim to better themselves but the harder they try to move away from the MOR catalogue, the more they find themselves where they left off — albeit with more distortion pedals. This could be pure conjecture, of course, assuming that they are consciously doing so. Nevertheless, this set of songs aren’t as catchy as the ones on their previous releases, and they won’t break new ground, but you’ll appreciate the exultant growth of a band once dismissed as “Nu-Acoustic Movement” sycophants.
Read Full Post »