I don’t usually have guilty pleasures. Mainly because I really don’t feel guilty about the types of pleasure I get from certain types of music. Club jams, marathon listenings to old Third Eye Blind albums, Puff Daddy. I love these things alongside most of the hipster bullshit that gives this column its name. That being said, I really feel insanely guilty about liking the Stars and their new album “In Our Bedroom After the War” as much as I do. The Stars definitely come off as the Diet Coke of the Broken Social Scene family. They are to shoegaze music what Peet’s Coffee and Tea is to coffee (you know, coffee for people who don’t like coffee). In addition, the songs definitely come from the emotional perspective of a lusty 17 year-old girl skipping out from her parent’s house to a frat party. And to be really honest, there’s just not much difference musically between this album and the last Stars album “Set Yourself on Fire.” The only real difference is that the lyrical focus has shifted from the break-up of relationships to bar hookups.
Even with that laundry list of reasons why I want to not like this album, I have listened to it nearly every day since it leaked out to the Internet three months ago. My relationship with this album very strongly echoes the relationship of a middle schooler discovering masturbation or something alon`g those lines. As much as I feel guilty, I can’t resist listening to this album constantly.
My main grapple with this album comes from the fact that my loving it definitely seems to say something about me. Does it mean I’m really into lusty 17 year-old girls or does it really mean that I seriously have that level of emotional maturity? I think the latter is the honest-to-God truth. The opening of “The Night Starts Here” shoots jolts of electricity down my spine as Amy Milan sings “The night starts here / Forget your name, forget your fear” with the vocal delivery of a girl set on letting her Friday night take her on whatever wild emotional rollercoaster it chooses and not regretting it in the morning. Or what about the conflict about sexual debauchery that runs through “Take Me to the Riot” when she sexually whispers, “Come closer / you see me / the face that is used to telling lies” before Torquil Campbell kicks in yelling, “Take me to the riot!”
The whole album suffers from this sort of lack of subtlety. It’s definitely the type of album that a kinda quirky, slightly “indie” sensitive boy puts on when he takes you to his room for a late-night tryst. In fact, it is THE album to use for that this year. Arguing that you are into it for any other reason (musical quality, for example) falls somewhere in the realm of arguing that condoms can make really good water balloons. Yes, they can make water balloons, but really balloons are just a crapload better for that and condoms definitely have a singular purpose.
Many people might not view most of these things as problems.
And in truth, I think that half of the people I know will really love this album and call it one of their favorites this year and I think the other half will pick up on everything I said in this review as a good reason to hate it. Truthfully, I don’t think either opinion is wrong. But here’s a quick few questions to tell you if you should pick up this album:
At any point have you generally acknowledged “Garden State” as “the best movie ever?”
Were you really into Weezer, especially the album Pinkerton, in high school?
Did you at any point take a date to a Death Cab for Cutie or Bright Eyes concert?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you most likely will be a Stars fan. You have an odd desire to develop a strong and emotional personal connection to music. You maybe should have grown out of it in high school. But then again, who’s to judge?
Graham Culbertson is a journalism senior and a stacks director for KCPR, San Luis Obispo, 91.3 FM. He’s also completely full of it.