Saturday, August 11, 2007

In Our Bedroom After the War

I may be biting off more than I can chew, but I plan on posting weekly record reviews, and what better way to start than with Stars’ latest, In Our Bedroom After the War.
     The album, as regular readers of this blog are aware, was made available a month ago as a digital-only release (through iTunes), with a physical CD release to come next month. So I’ve had a while now to listen to In Our Bedroom, and to mull this review, and I find, like any true love, that it’s hard to put into words what this band does for me. In particular, their previous album, 2004’s Set Yourself on Fire, hit my buttons in a profound way. Talk about a hard act to follow.
     2004 was also the year Arcade Fire released the equally monumental Funeral, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if they never put out another record. But they did, this year’s so-so Neon Bible, and I’m happy to say that Stars have done a better job with their follow-up effort. While it lacks the unbridled passion of SYOF, it’s more polished and in many places more direct than Stars have ever been. Take “My Favourite Book,” the Stars’ first real love song. Sure, they write about love all the time (their second record, after all, was entitled Heart), but always with an edge, and a sharp one at that. But it’s hard to detect any irony when Amy Millan sings, “And when we’re making love / I’d give everything up for your touch” while a shoop-shoop chorus coos in the back. And “Take Me to the Riot” is Stars’ most brazen attempt at the big hit that is undoubtedly in them.
     Everything, of course, isn’t rosy in the Starsosphere, as the back-to-back punch of “Personal” (about an online-dating connection gone wrong) and “Barricade” (an ode to a vicious hooligan) makes clear. No one knows better than this band how precarious and painful relationships can be. But if SYOF was about survival in the face of love’s storms, In Our Bedroom — especially on the two closing songs “Today Will Be Better, I Swear!” and the title track — imagines a day when the storms may pass. “Listen, the birds sing,” Torquil Campbell sings on “In Our Bedroom,” “Listen, the bells ring / All the living are dead / And the dead are all living / The war is over and we are beginning.” Can’t wait for what comes next.
Stars: My Favourite Book (mp3)
Stars: In Our Bedroom After the War (mp3)

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