Release Date: Mar 08, 11
Don’t act like you don’t know about Starfucker. You don’t have to know their electronic music, you don’t have to know that they’re from Portland, you don’t even have to know that they also have gone by the names PYRAMID and Pyramiddd and currently STRFKR whilst touring. But you can’t pretend you haven’t seen their name around blogs or heard them conservatively discussed in public. Now you need to know about their full-length release from Polyvinyl, Reptilians. Your brain will crave it without flooding you with dance impulses, even though some tracks can bleed into each other.
The sound of a plugged-in guitar without any plucking, strumming, fingering, or other means of using the instrument is always a great opener. “Born” begins scratchy and inducing feelings of being on a friend’s back patio late at night in the summer, with those cliché white lights strung around. Then the obvious Passion Pit-esque vocals and distortions come crashing in and it’s a good and easy opener. I’m pulled in without wanting to leave, but I’m still playing hard to get for now. The stakes have been upped for the next track.
Consider the stakes met. If The Killers had a flash game made for them, “Julius” seems to be the music that would play. Even though it’s obviously not theirs. I’m thrown back to the alternative music I would listen to on XMU around 2005 – that music always seemed to try to get me to feel something in a different way every time. “Julius” makes me feel like I want to listen to it on repeat as if I own no other similar song (which is debatable).
“Bury Us Alive,” a track that dropped far in advance and has been remixed again and again by now, has that mindless chorus that’s commercial enough to get your attention but dangerously hovers over not being able to grab your attention to buy the album. What doesn’t sound like a casual dance hook nowadays anyhow? It’s [been] overdone. I would rather have had a taste of something different earlier on. Like, say, “Julius.”
Gauzy vocals come into “Mystery Cloud” sounding more cloud than mystery and taking off into a simultaneous electronic breakdown and uplifter, back to that feeling-something-new-via-something-new rhythm. I can practically see the live performance here – lots of bodies moving to the mildly moving tempo that dips into low self-reflexive pitches in the dark. The music muffles into the background behind the voice of a vintage man suggesting, in those typically soothing old-school ways, to contemplate death. “It’s like manure,” he says. “You’ll get wonderful things out of that.” I believe him.
Is “Mona Vegas” the ballad of Reptilians? Lazier vocals and deeper bass notes are cued to moments of audible static. A keyboard restores the mood before the original synthesizers return with the friends’-back-patio beat found consistently on all tracks. But there is something more humble found here.
On the closer we witness the effects of Ratatat – their signature notes blipping around the scale in dissonant fashion, a recorded man behind them speaking about the spectra of life. Jump less than a minute later on “Quality Time” and the beat has completely changed. It’s fuller. It feels more ready. It proves to be bursting with subtle life, in just the right amount. The cinematic swells aren’t nearly as epic as they could be, nor are they as wildly overdone as possible either. They soon end and I’m left wondering what happened.
I return to “Born” and settle into taking a second listen.