November 13, 2003

The Stills: Logic Hurts

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The Stills are one of those bands who, when I first heard about them, caused my Indie Sense to tingle like a foot that not only has fallen asleep, but has lapsed into a coma. I realize that much of this apprehension came simply from the fact that their name begins with “The,” but really, isn’t it just obvious? There’s a reason I never even bothered to listen to the Datsuns. But, since I review these CDs now, I’ve tried to be a little more objective when hearing about new bands. Plus, I heard that one of the bands that the Stills apparently rip off is Echo and the Bunnymen, whom I’m obsessed with (thank you, Stephen Malkmus and Donnie Darko).

As Interpol proved, derivation does not necessarily equate itself to plagiarism. This is mostly true for the Stills, although Interpol’s sound is all over this album. Several times throughout Logic Will Break Your Heart some variation of the exquisite guitar attack at the end of “The New” popped up. There are worse things to draw inspiration from, but as a result the Stills have been lumped together with a lot of today’s trendy new bands.

In addition, way too much has been made of the fact that the Stills spent their summer in New York. I know “The City” likes to think that every relevant band is from there nowadays, but it’s just not true. These guys are from Montreal and have been playing with each other since they were twelve-year-olds. They developed their sound throughout the course of their lives, not during a few months in the “Greatest City in the World.” That this has been such a focal point is not the Stills’s fault.

Unwarranted hype aside, there was one problem with this CD: aside from “Still in Love Song” and “Yesterday Never Tomorrows” (more on this later), I have a hard time seeing any of these songs getting stuck in my head. This isn’t to say that I want every track to be a catchy pop song, but it is important that songs are memorable. Every song was perfectly enjoyable — I liked the album as a whole — but I certainly wasn’t dying to replay anything when I finished listening.

That is, except for “Yesterday Never Tomorrows,” the excellent closer. I liken this song to “Street Spirit” at the end of Radiohead’s The Bends, because it shows possible turns the band may make in the future. Driven by an uplifting, xylophone-like keyboard loop and tight, up-tempo drumming before fading out to peaceful, echoing guitars, it’s the album’s most fun and enjoyable song. True, Shakespeare would probably turn his nose up at the line “Some things last forever/ Why can’t this last forever?” but hopefully no one above the age of fourteen was expecting any lyrical fulfillment from the Stills anyway.

So with a promising sendoff like “Yesterday Never Tomorrows,” Logic Will Break Your Heart leaves me with hope that someday the Stills will become a band that is more than worthy of the attention they’ve already been receiving.

Archived article by Ross McGowan