First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2007, Volume 14, #3
Written by John Metzger
Fame, at least in today’s faceless music market, is a strange phenomenon. With songs being pushed through an array of disparate distribution outlets, it isn’t unusual for a track to become well known, while its singer continues to live in obscurity. Consequently, some songwriters will do just about anything to gain attention for their work. In the case of Low Stars, four relatively unknown figures — each of whom has had his share of success — have united as means of raising their profiles. As a member of Tonic, Jeff Russo received a pair of Grammy nominations. Chris Seefried landed Everybody's 1 in the top slot of Billboard’s modern rock chart with his group Gods Child. Jude contributed songs to the soundtracks for several popular television programs, including The OC, Lost, and Alias, while Dave Gibbs’ former outfit Gigolo Aunts once was a favorite of critics. Considering their collective credentials, it’s easy to see why Starbucks’ new Hear Music label, which typically has favored industry veterans over newcomers, has given a green light to Low Stars’ self-titled debut. Although the endeavor boasts sparking harmonies and crisp production, the end result is considerably less than satisfying.
Although there are hints of the ’90s as well as the ’60s lingering within its work, the bulk of Low Stars’ eponymous endeavor is rooted deeply in the soft rock of the early 1970s. For what it’s worth, the band, with help from producer George Drakoulias, does a decent job of capturing the essence of the era, but its strict adherence to paths that already have been well-traversed does little to bolster its cause. Like most modern-day affairs, the self-titled collection is front-loaded with Low Stars’ best tracks, and the ensemble largely mixes and matches bits and pieces of what once was fodder for AM radio. On Child, for example, the collective swipes part of the melody from Cat Stevens’ Father and Son and dresses it up with a light, country-rock touch á la Crosby, Stills & Nash’s Wasted on the Way. The subsequent Calling All Friends smashes Bob Seger’s Night Moves into America’s Sandman, while adding a healthy dose of Train. Elsewhere, Need a Friend alludes to Elton John’s Crocodile Rock, and Can’t Live without Your Love draws from The Beach Boys via The Beatles’ Because. The problem, however, is that while all of these songs are pleasant, they never develop their own personality.
Unfortunately, the latter half of the Low Stars’ self-titled debut — which finds the band dipping into Jackson Browne’s canon for Mexico and dabbling in Dave Matthews-isms on Love, Love, Love — is worse. Here, even the borrowed refrains don’t stick, and the unintended effect is that Low Stars’ clichéd, uninspired lyrics are hung out to dry.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box