It's roller disco for all eternity with Stars
Stars No One Is Lost (ATO Records)
Have you ever wondered why Stars haven't become one of the biggest bands in the world?
It's a decade since their third album, Set Yourself On Fire, took them to a worldwide audience. Despite five more albums, this collective remain the Montreal scene's poor relations to the more celebrated Arcade Fire. Maybe it's because some people consider them too damned smart for their own good. What a shame.
But it's kinda understandable. You watch a conjurer place a pea under one of three thimbles and, although you keep your eye on the prize, he fools you time and again. That becomes frustrating.
Stars are conjurers. They're hard to pin down. And sometimes that makes people feel uneasy.
These eleven new songs might just be what the doctor ordered. But, beware, in typical Stars fashion, not everything is what it might seem at first glance. Or on first listen.
The album cover art evokes a neon roller disco world that is simultaneously gloriously innocent and melancholic.
The opening swirl of glitterball abandon that is From The Night is deceptive.
Sure, it carries echoes of the soundtrack played in the gay disco below their studio. But the band, who've expertly employed most indie musical tropes in their career, haven't suddenly become The Andrea True Connection or Boney M.
"Let's be young," they chorus. "Let's pretend that we never will die. Let's imagine that no one is lost..."
And so, No One Is Lost is an album of songs that deals with the "downtown eternity" that is death.
"Life is loss," explains Torguil Campbell. "Love is loss. Loving people is about accepting that you're going to have to say goodbye to them." Phew!
"When you got it, it's not the way you want it to be.." they warn on You Keep Coming Up, on which Amy Millan plays a one woman Shangri-Las to Torquil Campbell's Sonny Bono. The twitchy rhythm holds your attention.
Trap Door has a chorus that could have been patented by Morrissey. I'm sure Manchester's bespoke miserabilist will endorse its elegant stoicism in the face of society's penchant for mindless indulgence.
Are You OK? is underpinned by a springy bass buzz that will make for a great live rocker.
At times Stars have failed to bridge the divide between being an observer and a participant. David Bowie is one who can successfully effect a stand-offishness and yet convince that he is intimately involved.
This may have been the one hurdle that kept Stars from receiving the acclaim they so justly deserve. It could be this is the album that crosses the divide.
The title track, which closes out the album, feels like the song that's played before you stumble to the cloak-room squinting as the houselights come on and the decor is revealed as distressed and tatty.
A woozy floor filler, it gives us the uber-ironic, "Put your hands up if you know you're gonna lose…"