Stars - In Our Bedroom After The War

David Segurola 30/08/2007

Rating: 4/5

Rather like watching slow motion softcore porn with rose-tinted glasses and tears blurring your vision, Stars are an absurd proposition. Absurd, as the band absorb themselves in the melodrama of romance, pushing pretension to Smithsian limits, yet still quite brilliant. 2004's Set Yourself On Fire was a gem of an indie pop album, one that deserved to soundtrack the beginning and the end of magnificent love affairs (well, “Ageless Beauty” soundtracked The O.C. - that's pretty close), but seemed under-appreciated by the public at large. The joy of that album was that it refused to hit you full on in the face, instead seducing you slowly and subtly. With little sexy whispers, Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell on joint vocals slipped you under the covers until, eventually, you realised you had fallen for their melancholic, sensual pop songs.

It's follow-up, In Our Bedroom After The War, charts a similar course to its predecessor, studying relationships and heartbreak with whispered dialogues and come-to-bed synths, but retreats from …Fire's emphatic pop twists in favour of swirling moodiness. After extended intro “The Beginning After The End”, “The Night Starts Here” stirs into action, introducing itself with classic escapism (“The night stars here/ Forget your name/ Forget your fear”) and rising up the major chords to a sort of forced grandeur, typical of the better album tracks on …Fire. Whilst single “Take Me To The Riot” enjoyably clicks into a glossy sing-a-long chorus, it's one of the best - and only - loud moments on the record, as the slower ballads “My Favourite Book” and “The Ghost of Genova Heights” (which actually sounds a bit Spoon) later prove. It seems Stars have settled into a cooler groove; still reliant upon the same highly-strung production, but less eager to impress their audience with the flick of a guitar riff.

“Personal” is certainly a grower: staged as a conversation between two lonely hearts' advertisers, it seems a cheap rom-com novelty, but reveals itself as one of the record's saddest songs (“Your voice it sounded kind/ I hope that you like me/ When you see my face I hope that you don't laugh”) simply articulated with an incredibly direct concept. “Barricade” then exemplars Stars' more conceited moments, with Campbell attempting to monologue on some comparison between love and war, but simply highlighting himself as less naturally talented and lyrically striking as Morrissey. And finally the self-titled closer revels in its own ambition, all celebratory violins, building guitars and forceful piano.

It's a fine conclusion, clanging and whirling like a well-polished cannon - because the entire album is a smartly-dressed explosion of romance and rioting, draping violence and frenzy in silk sheets of rising violins and harmonious vocals. Elegant, interesting, well-spoken 80s-style pop has always been Stars' forte. In Our Bedroom After The War is an all-round spangling little treat of an album; accomplished, sexy and romantic, even if it does choose to flout all the rules of what is acceptably cutesy in favour of overblown sweetheart symphonies.

Release date: 25 September 2007. Available to download now