February 20, 2013

Test Spins: Starfucker, Miracle Mile

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Starfucker’s synth pop sound is fun, but not very original. Lucas Colbert ’15 wonders if the band will survive much longer without some innovation. Upon first listen to Miracle Mile, the Portland-native band’s fourth album, the most striking facet of the group is not the music, but its racy, oft-censored moniker. The importance of this name and its ability to garner attention and distinction from other similarly-sounding bands seems to be of great focus to the group, evidenced by its brief identity crisis in 2009 — shifting to PYRAMID, then pyramidd and eventually settling back upon the original, Starfucker. This obsession with branding and image explains a lot of the band’s contrived weirdness. As a lost puppy of the indie music scene, it seems STRFKR wants to make weird music and be unique like everyone else, but is not quite sure how to effectively separate themselves from the pack.

With this latest installment, STRFKR (this is the band’s often used, vowel-less nickname) revisits its fairly generic brand of synthy indie-pop with a few choice departures. The opening track, “While I’m Alive” is a more traditional dancey funk-pop song with an unforgivingly catchy hook, providing a moody change from a sound that is usually, at best, formulaically pleasant. Several elements of this song and the unabashedly vapid but fun “Yayaya,” sound like watered-down renditions of the original weird synth-pop band, of Montreal, with high pitched “ooh-oohs” and feisty guitar twangs abound. However, the majority of the album does not reach this height of musical engagement, instead settling for the lazy, often forgettable sound exhibited in tracks like “Isea” and “Kahlil Gibran,” which ultimately feel like filler in an over-long LP.  In another display of uniformity, the song “Malmo” gives into the painfully ubiquitous trend of the repetitive indie whistle, trailing and mimicking the simple melody that came before it. The beat in “Last Words” is barebones basic and its melody is sleepy in its lack of complexity and build-up. These slow attempts hardly live up to frontman Joshua Hodge’s goal for the band — to produce music that is both dance-able and interesting to listen to. For the most part, the album feels just fine, but nothing more — as they refuse to got out on a limb musically, satisfied instead with toeing the line of acceptability with unimaginative, been-there-done-that indie-pop. The random insertions of speeches by the philosopher, Alan Watts, in songs feel like half-baked attempts at a message that never really gets through. Even the way the group sometimes dresses in drag at live performances feels like a forced and purposeless act of being weird just for the sake of being weird, rather than having any innate purpose. The songs may be pleasantly catchy, but that affirmation can only take a band so far, and as STRFKR nears album five, change and variety are a necessity for survival.

Original Author: Lucas Colbert-Carreiro