In Our Bedroom After The War
"The living are dead, and the dead are all living" is one of the closing lines to album finale (and title track) In Our Bedroom After The War, the fourth album from Canadian indie-popsters Stars. The track climaxes in a rousing crescendo of piano, horns and triumphant vocals in a manner reminiscent of a blockbuster film ending, a comparison that is less tenuous when you consider that the album was intended to have a narrative structure, and the sleeve notes are penned by an author- Daniel Handler. The final song is a fitting end to a album that has a very anthemic traditional pop slant, but displays seemingly disparate influences such as (wait for it genre-fans) Shoegazing, Euro-pop and Brit-Rock.
Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan share vocal duties throughout the release, their mixture of chiming and clear (Millan) and heartfelt yet sinister (Campbell) playing off each other to great effect on songs such as the brooding The Night Starts Here. On Take Me To The Riot Campbell's' voice takes on a cajoling, earnest feel that is very Morrisey-esque in it's delivery.
The album open in a dark, deep dream-pop fashion that the Cocteau Twins would be proud of- synths and electronic squelches creating a wistful, lovelorn crescendo on "The Beginning After The End". The theme of raw emotional vulnerability continues throughout the album, perhaps to best effect on the haunting Personal, a very open and cutting analysis of a now-defunct relationship played out against a delicate piano melody. The pairing of Campbell's and Millans voice is used to particularly powerful effect here. There are more upbeat musical moments on the album, but all are juxtaposed with a dark lyrical undercurrent- "Bitches In Tokyo" is all sugar-sweet harmonies set against a raging tale of the fallout from a relationship. Yup, another one of those.
The standard set by the aforementioned tracks is occasionally compromised by a couple of songs on the rest of the album that are slightly bland and perform aural routines that leave little impression. And although In our Bedroom After The War is a more imaginative release, some Stars fans may (unfairly) compare it in a less favourable light than previous long-player Set Yourself on Fire because of this consistency issue.
Minor quibbles aside though, In our Bedroom After The War is a beautifully constructed body of work that pitches a depth of emotional story-telling against delightfully constructed pop songs awash with imagination. Well worth checking out.