Canadian romantics Stars scaled the heights on the last LP, Set Yourself On Fire. It was, indeed, the embodiment of the band’s mantra: perfectly measured, beautifully played music delivered with the kind of emotional gravitas it deserved. Does their follow up, then, pale in comparison?
Happily, it would appear not: In Our Bedroom After The War is more of the same weighty stuff, personal themes and insecurities wrought on near-epic levels. After the war this may be, but the crucial factor is the location; this is from bedrooms, for bedrooms.
The Night Starts Here sets the album’s stall on familiar ground: Torq Campbell and Amy Millan alternate-then-combine over a driving bass line illuminated with subtle strings and guitar riffs.
Stars really start to punch their weight, however, on Take Me To The Riot, a rousing, passionate plea with more than a hint of The Smiths at their inciting best. Its pairing with My Favourite Book only adds to its potency, the latter fast-fowarding a decade or two with Millan’s tender vocal and nuanced woodwind touches.
Branching out slight, Torq comes over all Prince on the somewhat surprising Ghost Of Genova Heights, a track that suddenly veers from classic Campbell placidity to falsetto funk and Hall & Oates-esque bass line and organ licks. It’s a little jarring, but utterly inspired.
Normal service is subsequently resumed with Personal, a morose correspondence between Campbell and Millan about classified ad non-event. Barricade, too, trades on strangely Anglophilic themes (“in Bermondsey in Burberry…the pigs arrived”) over a serene piano backing and, eventually, the sound of mob chanting. It will be, without doubt, a lifetime favourite for some.
While the album boasts a number of more vigorous efforts (Bitches In Tokyo, Midnight Coward), none have the instant appeal of a Reunion or What I’m Trying To Say, and, although such tracks certainly show signs of revealing their secrets given time, it’s the slow-burning epics on which the album trades, and deservedly so.
It is fitting, then, that the affair concludes with the grand-scale title track, which crescendos beautifully from piano and vocal to full orchestral bombast in six glorious minutes the Arcade Fire themselves would be proud of.
In Our Bedroom is not perfect but it has moments of perfection in much the same way as its predecessor. An instant classic for some, a slow-burner for others; this is what we’ve come to expect of Stars and – now and then – that little bit more as well.