When You Finally See Stars

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Music blog confession – despite being “that guy” who claims that he discovered Stars to his friends (we’re talking pre-Heart), I’ve actually never seen them. So, it was a treat to see Stars appear on the Mayan October calendar (insert apocalypse joke here).

The set decorations were suspended disco balls of various sizes. The two vocal leads’ decorations were glow-y rings.

1 – “Theory of Relativity”
The opener from the latest album – it doesn’t so much announce a new sound as remind you that Stars were all over electro-pop before it was so cool to be, like Ryan Gosling’s scorpion jacket way before it went vintage. The track is right in Stars’ zone – namely, “really pretty songs that have horribly depressing lyrics.” There’s snow in Hawaii, and I can’t think of anything more depressing than that. A great tune with a cascading synth loop and an interlude of “win it, baby” in the key of Daft Punk.

Main synth guy Chris Seligman is dressed like an evil henchman. All black with one of those cylindrical caps. Like, he’s about to partake in a heist, but whatever is being stolen is falling into the wrong hands.

2 – “Fixed”
This song is about escaping from the Temple of Doom. If it isn’t, you have to explain to me what the lyric “You hold my heart / you won’t let up / after I am caught, touch turns into fisticuffs / it’s all in your head, wonder if I’m fixed to cut” means.

3 – “A Song is a Weapon”
Evil henchman Chris Seligman uses this song to get the guy behind the ticket window in the Mayan to put the money in the register into a duffel bag, along with several women’s large Stars T-shirts (“they just fit me better than men’s medium, ok?!”).

Also, I’m starting to think that lead singer Torquil Campbell’s loafers are salmon, not pink. He’s British by birth and Canadian by choice, which I think makes that OK. In Britain.

4 – “Ageless Beauty”
The rock anthem from Set Yourself On Fire with a chord progression would make Weezer proud. There’s also a kind of tambourine solo in the live version, if those exist.

The band mentions that the first place it ever drew a real crowd was LA, and they seem to have a genuine affinity for this place.

5 – “The North”
Campbell announces that “this is about us” – which makes me think that Stars need to dress in warmer clothing. I think his shoes actually are pink now, which is still OK, since his name is Torquil (which sort of translates into “The protection of Thor even when you’re wearing pink loafers”).

6 – “We Don’t Want Your Body”
Does this song make me look fat? During the repeated rejection (chorus) Amy Millan does an amazing boogie dance, in heels.

7 – “Through the Mines”
Wait, so The North is supposed to be Stars “hopeful” album? Their next album is going to be called Suicide With A Smile. Stating the obvious – the Smiths have (and probably always will) tint Stars’ lyrics.

Right on cue, Stars refuse to play “This Charming Man,” proclaiming that “Morrissey is a bitch” (from Millan – although I couldn’t hear what prompted this remark). He’d be proud of his own repudiation. Which is to say that he would likely celebrate it with a lamentation it for the ages that took a swipe at the Queen’s presence on Canadian money.

8 – “Midnight Coward”
Listen, you know how a couple songs ago I was saying that I don’t want your body? OK, I lied. I really do want your body. Like two slabs of uncooked Canadian bacon. You and me. At least for tonight. Probably just tonight. Just keep me warm. If you’ve been listening – I’m also very cold.

9 – “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead”
Please stop calling me at work. That’s my new assistant. I really was in a meeting that one time. Well you shouldn’t have waited so long. No, I had fun, that’s not it. You shouldn’t be embarrassed about that. I don’t think I can. I’m really busy. That’s none of your business! Look, it was a one-time thing, OK? It can’t happen again. It just can’t. That’s OK – I have your number. OK. Alright. Right. I’m probably going to be just as busy after the holiday. Take care. Cheryl, you’re fired.

One of the best songs of the aughts, it’s even more amazing live.

10 – “Backlines”
Punk-y verse, alt-rock chorus, add swelling strings – “typical” Stars tune?

11 – “Do You Want To Die Together”
Santo and Johnny send-up with lyrics written by the dumped Wedding Singer.

12 – “Soft Revolution”
The song with the prettiest ending ever. And Stars’ own indie record label.

– Discarded NERF slogan
– Your 2012 NFL rule changes
– Charmin bears rebelling against their corporate overlords at Procter & Gamble (new leader – Charmin Mao)
– Cat Power covering The Beatles track

13 – “Lights Changing Colour”
Millan devotes this song to “the babies.” Millan’s sister had a baby in LA the same day Millan had her very own baby, just 2 hours apart. Last time Stars toured, Millan rocked the baby bump. The song starts with “It was empty ’til you came up through the honey” which is just so much… information.

14 – “Dead Hearts”
I’m glad this song wasn’t devoted to the babies. The Five Ghosts is an underrated album (at least relative to the tone-deaf Pitchfork review which was something along the lines of – ‘too familiar to be precious’ and ‘needs more beards.’).

15 – “Elevator Love Letter”
This is definitely the official song for the third act of shows on the CW Network, just as the lead is getting her shit together. It’s the song that plays as Rory realizes that she shouldn’t have wasted so much time talking about losing her real virginity while blowing the cute, older popular boy and that if she studies for the next 18 hours straight without taking a break for cutting she can still get a B-plus on her AP Women’s Calculus test and get into Future President School, where everyone is a smart, nerdy vampire. In my head, that is what happens on CW shows.

Stars music has been featured in a bunch of CW shows. Also, Elevator Love Letter is the actual name of a Grey’s Anatomy episode. #WhenAwesomeSongsGetCoOptedByLameThings. #WhenPeopleUseHashTagsAsALiteraryDevice.

16 – “Look Up”
Those disco balls are pretty.

17 – “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It”
The most obvious “single” from The North, and an absolute rip-roarer. I’m also convinced that this song is a primer used to train physicians in how to check for hernias, which is fitting because the tune literally makes the concert’s balls drop. A giant disco ball descends and immediately makes all its lesser satellites fear Zod. (“Kneel!”)

18 – “How Much More”
Refers to the length of the show. And of this review.

19 – “Walls”
…of the Mayan start transforming to let the face-huggers loose.

20 – “The 400”
A cool, understated encore, like the song. Just a piano, with Campbell singing and the rest of the band members leaning against the base of drum platform.

By now, Stars have been playing so long that this is actually a part of their reunion tour. They’re on their fourth drummer. They played every song on The North except one (that song must be on time out).

Campbell says that Stars will be back soon. He genuinely seems to love LA (ex-actor alert) and asserts that “we have years and years to be friends.”

Oddly, “Thank You For Being A Friend” is the first song the plays when the house lights go up.

Grade – 5 DISCO BALLS (out of 5). Just see them. They play a million songs and they’re awesome.


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