New Starsailor: On the Outside
Starsailor's latest album, On the Outside, out Oct. 17 in the U.K., addresses such diverse subjects as war victims, a boy who might have fallen victim to neo-Nazis, religious prejudice in Northern Ireland, poor self-esteem, depression, and (of course) love.
Fun stuff, eh? Actually, it's a pretty rockin' album. It only slows down rarely, and toward the end...
The guys from Starsailor -- singer/guitarist James Walsh, Ben Byrne on drums, James Stelfox on bass, and keyboardist Barry Westhead -- were wise to not let the momentum slow until late in the album. Although some political and human rights issues are addressed, the guys still want to sing about girls and angst (and to rock, naturally).
The album opens immediately with first single "In the Crossfire" and the lines "I don't see myself when I look in the mirror/I see who I should be/I don't see myself when I look in your eyes/Thank God for that". It's a bold choice to essentially open an album with singing (there is just a bit of piano before the lyrics, though guitar, bass, and pounding drums soon kick in). It's a good song, though probably not the one I would have chosen as the first single.
Starsailor's music is infectious. "This Time" is a catchy, foot-tapping track and would be as cheery as all-get-out if not for the lyrics ("I won't let it kill me this time", etc.). Interesting thing about the lyrics; they might be strongest when Starsailor is inspired by a subject they feel especially strongly about, such as depression or religious prejudice. They address the latter on "Get Out While You Can", which has a great melodic flow. It's softer than the other songs, so it makes for a nice change of pace. "Do you see what I see/a classless society?" is also such a different lyric, and James Walsh's voice sounds different as well, very much like Elton John. The song is about Walsh's sister-in-law having been "verbally abused while waiting for a train for being on the 'wrong' side of Christianity." (Which sounds like very "Christian" behaviour!).
On some of the girls-and-angst songs, the lyrics are a tad weaker, as they veer into more confessional territory and sometimes feel a bit like scrawled notes (or quickly-written e-mails) to a girlfriend. Some lyrics are a bit too repetitive; "Don't Know" repeats "I don't know what love is, but I think I've had it" many times, and once is too often for that line. There are also some forced rhymes. A few songs have the tone of scrawlings to a girlfriend.
Still, even when the lyrics are a problem, the songs are usually enjoyable because the music is almost always so strong. "Faith Hope Love" is a rare exception; the shouts of "Faith! Hope! Love!" ruin it for me. Way the heck too dorky (Yes, so was that sentence. I blame the song). "Way Back Home" has had enough attention lavished on the music that it's easy to ignore the simple lyrics. I really like it. I like "In the Blood" a lot as well. "Keep Us Together" is another standout track. "White Light" might belong in that "scrawled notes to a girlfriend" category ("our minds belong together") but it rocks, so I surrender. I'm a slave to the rhythm, or something like that.
The group begins a UK tour in late October; dates are on their website. If you click "US Dates" on their website, they'll give you 2004 dates, so... no word on US dates.
Both from On the Outside, out on Oct. 17 in the UK:
MP3:Starsailor - Get Out While You Can
MP3:Starsailor - In My Blood
Check out the video for first single "In the Crossfire" over at Torr (check out the Cardigans video too. Meow).