On the Outside
First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2006, Volume 13, #8
Written by John Metzger
The fall from "next big thing" status to the has-been heap comes quickly. For Starsailor, it happened virtually overnight when the critics who fawned over the bandís debut Love Is Here switched course on a whim and panned its sophomore outing Silence Is Easy. Whether it was because rock journalists are both fickle and prone to acting like lemmings or whether it was due to some sort of cultural backlash against Phil Spector ó who not only had produced two songs on the endeavor but also had been indicted for murder just prior to its release ó is made moot by the issuance of the groupís third effort On the Outside. Given the urgency of Starsailorís delivery, itís immediately apparent that the ensemble isnít about to slip quietly into the night.
Working alongside producer Rob Schnapf (Beck, The Vines), Starsailor parlayed the lush, folk-rock melodiousness of Love Is Here as well as the larger-than-life production of Silence Is Easy into a launching pad for the aggressive charge of On the Outside. Throughout the lean, 11-track set, the band surrounds its melodramatic musings with a heady swirl of driving rhythms and chiming guitars. The biggest difference, however, is the confidence exuded by front man James Walsh who loses most of his past Jeff Buckley-isms in favor of an impassioned, Bono-esque wail.
Still problematic are Starsailorís lyrics, but the ensemble occasionally sidesteps its tendency toward sappy ruminations by looking outward and turning more political. Over the course of On the Outside, the group addresses, among other things, the sparring between Protestants and Catholics in Belfast (Get Out While You Can), crass materialism (Counterfeit Life), and the murder of a Jewish boy at the hands of Neo-Nazis (Jeremiah). In addition, the group continues to struggle to find a distinctive flair that it can call its own, and in effect, it has transformed its penchant for Coldplay and Travis into a fascination with the harder-edged rock of U2 and Oasis. While itís searching for an identity, however, Starsailor at least is making consistently enjoyable efforts such as On the Outside.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box