by Mark Anthony Brennan
Release Date: August 13th, 2014
Label: Almost Musique
On their second full-length album Shimmering Stars take impressive strides forward. Not that they’ve abandoned their whole ‘Everly Brothers on acid’ sound, but they have definitely built on it. On ‘Bedrooms of the Nation’ they take their signature reverb-heavy sound and add complexity, depth and nuance to create a much fuller and satisfying listening experience.
The lads have always been a mournful bunch but they have a real knack for using their angst to make beautiful music. “Defective Heart”, as a prime example, is just gorgeous even though the song is filled with self-loathing. Set to the lovely sounds of pre-British Invasion croon rock, singer Rory McClure is continually making comments like “I feel so f&%cked up all the time” and “I don’t know where the hell I’m going”. There are a few times when the vocal cooing is reminiscent of “Edward Scissorhands’, which is not really inappropriate. The music of Danny Elfman (in Tim Burton movies) was undoubtedly beautiful but at the same time somewhat unsettling, just as McClure’s shoegazing ‘I’m so lonely I wanna kill you all’ attitude can be.
However, on this latest outing Shimmering Stars go beyond merely expressing their own personal anxieties, they explore broader issues like societal breakdown and disconnectness. These themes are expressed not just lyrically (in songs such as “Anomie” and “Dereglement”) but also sonically. There is a pervasive industrial drone of guitar distortion that becomes more evident in the space between songs, where it is often accompanied by a jumble of urban chattering.
The band may channel Phil and Don, but they clearly cut their teeth on alternative pop, grunge and even punk. Their slip shows, so to speak, on “Dereglement” where, after a very Everly Brothers-style beginning, they settle in on a verse that sounds a heck of a lot like early REM. “Shadow Visions” features a build-up that evokes the Stone Roses, which then leads into a song that is more grunge than dream pop. And lying beneath the entire production is that fitfully sleeping beast of metal distortion.
As with their East Coast counterparts, Monomyth, Shimmering Stars still display their garage band roots. Unlike Monomyth, however, Shimmering Stars are always in complete control and their rough edges are not as apparent in their actual sound as in their attitude. Fortunately for us, they have not fallen into the trap of trying to make their music more accessible by heading into safer waters. As much as their sound is alluring, almost disarmingly so, they do not paint a pretty picture, and it is that dichotomy that keeps things interesting.