Stars photo by Shervin Lainez
There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light
Last Gang / eOne
There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light showcases the Canadian band Stars doing what they do best — creating smart, well-structured pop music. They have mastered the ability to merge thought-provoking lyrics with endlessly catchy melodies.
When we last heard from Stars, they were reveling in discotheque glitz and electronic dance pulses. But despite the uplifting beats, the songs on 2014's No One Is Lost struggled with dark and gloomy subjects. But that's been typical of the band since its 2001 debut, Nightsongs. They are adept at embracing varying musical styles (dance, techno-pop, rock, or some combination) while hanging deep, sometimes conflicting, lyrical themes on their melodies, like love, death and politics. This continues with There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light, their eighth studio album.
The rocking side of Stars emerges first. “Privilege,” which opens the album, starts sweetly; Amy Millan’s lighter-than-air vocals are accompanied by shimmering guitars. The song then thunders into a gloriously majestic headbanger. Relationships, a favorite subject of both Millan and her cohort and Stars' co-founder Torquil Campbell, are examined in “Fluorescent Light” and “Losing To You." The former is an observation about love’s inability to thrive in artificial environs; the latter is a conversation between lovers who are becoming aware of cracks appearing in their relationship.
The irresistible “We Called It Love” cascades on a rolling bassline and crisp guitars, while making the wry observation, “I don’t believe people ever change. But, I’ve changed.” In contrast, “Alone” is a catchy, hooked-filled confection that conjures memories of Eighties synth-pop. “Real Thing” cleverly marries two different tempos, allowing the band’s songcraft a chance to bask in its glory. No pop album would be complete without an introspective ballad, and “The Gift Of Love” is that moment on There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light. The more introspective moments — “The Maze,” “California, I Love That Name” and “Wanderers” — are saved for the album’s end.
Stars are a picture of consistency, with a lineup that has only grown since Torquil Campbell and Chris Seligman started the group 17 years ago. Up front are the band’s two vocalists: Campbell, who also plays keyboards, and Millan, who also plays guitar. Seligman is the keyboard player, Evan Cranley switches between bass, guitar and keyboards, Patrick McGee is the drummer and now Chris McCarron has joined as guitarist. (Campbell, Millan and Cranley have also all been part of the Broken Social Scene collective). Producer Peter Katis was recruited to co-produce the album with the band.
Stars possesses a flexibility that allows the band to wander throughout the pop spectrum with ease. They think outside the box. This new album reinforces these qualities while displaying an emergent maturity that can apparently only be attained by years away from fluorescent light.