2004, Music

Set Yourself on Fire by Stars (2004, Arts & Crafts)

I have a real problem rating these guys. You see, I saw them live before I ever heard their music. And well, if you like live music, I’m not sure you want to see Stars.

To begin with, Campbell is definitely the most obnoxious frontman I have ever had the displeasure to see in person. He appeared to be trying to out-Bono Bono with his vague generalizations about the “fucking fascists” in power. (This at an all-ages festival; I am not one for censorship but there is also something called ‘tact’.) He spent a good half the show looking at the sound engineer and motioning for him to turn up his synth. Frankly I have never seen anything like that (and I have seen the odd obnoxious vocalist). At one point he told us “We’re Stars and so are you.” Thanks for that.

The rest of the band is definitely better than competent, but their show is… well just very underwhelming. They throw petals at the audience. They exchange roses. They sing to each other. They make hand gestures when they aren’t playing. I’ve never been big on the theatrical performance (though I respect it) but if you are going to indulge in some kind of theatrical routine you should probably go whole-hog with it. It’s either about the music or the show. I don’t know that there is a successful middle-ground very often. Certainly not with rose petals (or whatever they were).

So I must say I am taken aback that I can wholeheartedly respect this album. The arrangements are interesting enough to overcome the often overly-dramatic lyrics. The band has a sense of dynamics I never would have guessed based on their show. I’m really quite surprised.

“He Lied About Death” is worth the price of admission alone. It makes one wish they had hired that sax player permanently. It’s a moment that was utterly absent from their live show – which begs the question, how are they more intense on record?? – and it makes me think, these guys could be pretty good, if they could drop the histrionics.


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