Starsailor are four chaps from Chorley, England who”ve had two hit singles across the pond and who”ve toured to critical acclaim in London and Australia. These days, it”s usually the Strokes to whom the title of Saviors of Rock and Roll is handed. But now many in this business want to give Starsailor a shot at the Strokes” crown. In Starsailor”s case, the title should be amended to Saviors of Indie Rock in the Vein of Jeff Buckley.
These boys are unabashedly indebted to Buckley, even taking their name from a Buckley EP. Starsailor have prepared for the American release of the eleven-song Love is Here by making late-night stops on Letterman and Kilborn just last week to perform the unremarkable title track.
Frontman and guitarist James Walsh gets most of the press. Walsh, the musical force behind the band, milks his untucked good looks into a persona best described as earnest, serious and charming. His voice gets the hype it”s acrobatic, endearing and reaches towards Thom Yorke before stopping short somewhere between a sedated Robert Plant and a depressed Neil Young.
Not to be underestimated are keyboardist Barry Westhead, bassist James Stelfox and drummer Ben Byrne. The collective effort is a batch of melancholic modern rock darker than successful and similarly-instrumented Coldplay, but a blend of experimentation and classicism that yields promise.
A rock song can succeed without superior lyrics, but the reflective mood Starsailor seem to be aiming at probably requires something more than Walsh offers on Love is Here. Think of his two most apparent influencesBuckley and Young. At the very least, Walsh leaves me scratching my head as to whether he is mockingly profound, or simply picking words that sound good in falsetto: “Don”t you know you”ve got your daddy”s eyes / Daddy was an alcoholic.” What?
The musicianship on Love is Here is tight the bass drives and the keys, whether piano or Hammond or synth, are pillowy and exquisite. Check out the lead keys on “Poor Misguided Fool,” one of the album”s better songs. The melodrama builds in the solid “Alcoholic,” but lifts briefly for “Lullaby,” Starsailor”s best chance at a hit over here: a number seemingly lifted directly from the 70s.
The melodies are vast and sweeping throughout Love is Here. The best songs “Talk Her Down,” “Good Souls,” and “Coming Down” emerge when Starsailor break what seems to be a programmatic and confining song structure. Let”s hope Walsh”s lyrics mature and the quartet looks toward greater innovation for what will be an eagerly anticipated follow-up.