Review Summary: No situational idiosyncrasy, no forced melodrama, just gorgeous reminders that people still care.
Nobody cares any more! It's actually become cool to pretend that you don't care. But everyone cares at least a little bit, and you know what they care about most? Love. Stars knew this in 2005 when they released the immense Set Yourself On Fire
and they bled it dry on follow-up In Our Bedroom After The War
two years later. So in 2010, have the Canadian indie-rock maestros given up the chase? Of course not. They still care.
Opener 'Dead Hearts' proves it. It's unapologetic in its cryptic simplicity; Campbell and Millan trade romantic questions and answers in their most precious whispers, the vocal melody breaking its own heart atop gentle picked guitar. At the chorus, the track sinks into an electronic embrace and maintains its bold dramatic edge; later it will crescendo amid elements of both faces. Welcome to The Five Ghosts
, fifty percent poignant, fifty percent anthemic, and totally, utterly adorable in all of its outfits. Even softly-spoken ballad 'Changes', which in the hands of any other band would be awkward and clichéd, is here unmistakably beautiful, Millan's soft echoed tone perfectly conveying the uncertainty she divulges.
Stars' 2010 release comes across, even in that slightly unsteady cut, much more naturally than its immediate pre-decessor, abandoning any and all of the theatrical influence for impulsive hooks, infectious and gorgeous as ever. Campbell-led 'The Last Song Ever Written' opens married with droning ambience and drifts through end-of-the-world imagery which conjures more of an emotional vacuum than a fiery apocalypse; gone is the pretense of 'Barricade' from Bedroom
replaced by something far more instinctive, something Stars have always known how to do - namely, tug at your heartstrings so gently that they strain but never break. From top to bottom, whether she's refusing sex on 'We Don't Want Your Body' or he's telling metaphorical ghost stories on 'I Died So I Could Haunt You', it's all centred around that fragile, delicate effect.
And though the ever-presence of electronics renders a semi-attentive listen blurry, the shifts in tempo and the subtle variance of tone make The Five Ghosts
a near rival to the band's magnum opus, even if it lacks the truly outstanding moments Set Yourself On Fire
had to offer. Simply put, it's good that somebody's still writing about love in its purest, simplest form, without feeling compelled to add situational idiosyncrasy or forced melodrama to the already complex issue. More than that, it's good that the one band consistently focussed on writing in that manner is this lovable, this innocent and this, well, good
. The Five Ghosts
could be seen as an indie-pop band going through the motions, if only Stars' motions weren't so pretty, so soothing, so indescribably brilliant. Take my word for it: Stars care. They always will.