Starsailor

Love Is Here (Capitol)

Or, this year's fresh Brit hit (so the NME tells us, anyway), meaning those of us who purchased January's I Heard Myself in Youlast February from Amazon's U.K. site, figuring them as the next Coldplay, can now file it away with the rest of London's letdowns. Seeing as how Starsailor's already getting play on MTV2 -- I forget the song's title, as they all sound vaguely samey-same, but it's little more than one lingering close-up of singer-guitarist James Walsh -- maybe this offering has more staying power than a virgin teen astride Jenna Jameson. Doubt it, though, given that Starsailor's little more than Jeff Buckley with a Radiohead (or is that Coldplay, as in "whatever happened to?") fetish, meaning this band's EMI-funded ship is doomed to run aground about the time radio figures it has no interest in handing over its airwaves to a whiny depressive who pens songs about how he's a loser since Daddy was a boozer and so forth. (Sample lyric, sobbed but hardly sung: "Don't you know you've got your daddy's eyes?/Daddy was an alcoholic." Say, what comes after overwrought? Hysterical?)

There's no hiding the influence, of course, not when your band is named after an album, but theirs is a far more straight-ahead offering than the 1970 Tim Buckley disc from which their moniker's nicked. Buckley was willfully odd, a man not made for his times; Starsailor was truly avant-garde, meaning it was damned near unlistenable. Starsailor, on the other hand, so desperately wants to be liked and loved -- lurved, in other words. Walsh is one of those guys who can't wait to burden you with his angst and anguish; the entire disc is one long cry on a stranger's shoulder -- that, or the sob story told from a barstool, when it seems as though closing time's never coming. "I wanna hold you, but my hands are tied," goes one lyric; "Lullaby, you live in my ruined mind/Make light of all my fears/And lead me from here," goes another, and on and on they float like turds of wisdom from a junior high diary set to yummy-strummy guitar lines too flaccid for even James Taylor to notice.

And, trust me, it's hard to hate this record, not least of all because I paid import prices for it. It does contain its moments of catharsis: "Coming Down," for instance, about the man too sober to follow his lover into the bottom of the bottle (of booze or pills, matters little which); or "Good Souls," which renders yearning eloquently plain ("Christ, I'm out of my mind," Walsh warbles like Van Buckley Yorke Healey Wainwright, "I need to be loved"). Sometimes, it's even possible to love the loathable, as Starsailor's melodies are so beautifully benign they pass without offense. Walsh and the band are also mere kids, 21 at the time of this disc's making, which allows the apologist to forgive the self-absorption they're bound to break out of in due time. And if they don't, well, the British haven't been right since the Beatles, anyway.

 
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