With perhaps the most (ahem) interesting name in the music industry, Starfucker (whose aliases include STRFKR, Starwhacker and Pyramid) are a lot less raw then their name might suggest. Band leader John Hodges said the aim was “to see how far we could get with a stupid name”. Reptilians is their first album under this stupid name.
Rather than fornicate with stars, the foursome from Portland play fast and loose with sound. Although they try to work around the borders of any specific genre, their style is an electronica/synthpop hybrid, with subtle tones of rock or a twist of folk music intermittent throughout.
First impressions, in this case, can certainly be deceptive. Where the name Reptilians may suggest the album is cold and soulless, it is, for the most part, warmly charming. A look at the album’s song titles reads like a list of Stephen King’s latest horror stories – Bury Us Alive, Death As A Fetish, Hungry Ghost – yet the album itself sounds like the soundtrack to an ’80s feel-good movie.
The band’s quirkiness does not stop there. They are also known for performing and appearing in videos wearing female clothing. Are they suffering from something of an identity crisis?
If so, this identity crisis even seeps into the individual tracks on the album. Some of the tunes sound like they could’ve been made by completely different artists from different genres. For example, intro track Born is a slow, rhythmic rock-like anthem, with softly sung vocals echoing over guitars, drums and very faintly in the background what sounds like a conversation between cartoons. The last track on the album starts with extracts of a talk from Alan Watts (a deceased philosopher who features prominently on the album) before descending into a head banging techno style dance track.
It seems Starfucker have not decided whether they want to make dance music or zone-out music, instead getting caught somewhere in the middle. Adding samples of talks by the late Mr Watts only increase this confusion by adding a psychedelic element. (Speaking of Watts, everyone should listen to Mystery Cloud on the album, if only to hear which two things he believes all people should do during their lifetime.)
Although it is not what Starfucker are aiming for, there are some tracks on the album that could find some commercial success. 11 Millions is a very punchy, upbeat number that could be a dance floor filler, whilst The White Of Noon is perhaps the outstanding track on the album, with its engrossing melody, heavy bass and typically haunting vocals.
The songs themselves are very listenable, without ever leaving a lasting impression. It’s all a little too familiar without being distinct enough. The notion of trying to see “how far we can get with a stupid name like that” says a lot about Starfucker. Although their music can be enjoyable their manner and the vibe of their music is overly relaxed, when it seems this is not what they are aiming at. They sound like Gorillaz on Prozac.
They may be at the forefront of a new age synthetic sound but, really, Starfucker make background music. Reptilians is a good listen but not something that will be anyone’s favourite album. Starfucker lack a cutting edge. Neither a stupid band name nor gruesome song titles will give them one.