REVIEW: The Stills: Logic Will Break Your Heart
The Stills: Logic Will Break Your Heart [Vice/Warner, 2003]
Three words? '80s gloom-fanboys
I have two major problems with the Stills. I'll preface my complaints by acknowledging that neither critique is entirely valid; however, both elements hinder what could have been a bonafide love affair with this record.
Gripe #1: Circa the late '90s the Stills were known as the Undercovers, one of Montreal's great ska hopes. The band skanked with the best of them, infusing the reggae sense of the Specials with the new-school appeal of the Planet Smashers. At the time, Tim Fletcher and-co crooned idyllic about "Sippin' Sunshine" or jamming to an "80s Ghetto Blaster" and the group's live shows (usually at Montreal's now shut-down Jailhouse rock bar) would always end by 11 so the West Island suburban-kids could catch the last train home. Yes, these were-essentially the same guys-who now reminisce in the shade of lost love, disillusionment and 3 AM confusion in the downtown core of-big cities. Therefore, it's with the context of old that I initially approached the Stills' debut EP, Rememberese, this past summer. It's with the same trepidation and caution (read:-abnormally large-cynicism) that I listen to the band's new, trendy sound on Logic Will Break Your Heart.
Complaint #2: The resurgence of early '80s post-punk is it at a-high point, its popularity now close to its heyday peak. It seems every two-bit New York band will name-drop The Cure or The Smiths or Joy Division. Dig a little deeper though, and you come to realise that these New York-groups are -- in essence -- poseurs, not knowing more than "Pictures Of You," "How Soon Is Now," or "Love Will Tear Us Apart." I've been listening to the Cure for over a decade and can remember how the band's early, clinical, totally cred-obsessed records were over-looked in favour of the radio hits circa 1991. It seems that process is happening once again, and the new breed will hum "Friday I'm In Love" while not even caring to explore the genius of Seventeen Seconds or Pornography.
Away from those two rants and on to an actual review then. It's not a surprise that the Stills already carry the "We're Interpol Jr." baggage, due to the Montrealers' unique ability to end up on many an Interpol tour. And while that kind of acquaintanceship makes the Stills entirely critic-proof (I fell hard-for Interpol just like you did), it's also going to haunt the-former-ska boys-whilst eventually trying to carve-their own identity.
Despite-the-nagging doubt at the band's post-punk authenticity, I have to say I'm also enamoured with a good deal of these songs. There's the reverb-drenched guitars; the disco heavy bass; the desperate vocals; the '85 drums (sans-triggering, thank god!): the combination is enough to accompany any late-night/early-morning cathartic delve into those emotional peaks and valleys.
While Logic Will Break Your Heart isn't a consistent record, it has its share of equal parts charming and despondent gems. Opener "Lola Stars and Stripes" is bliss, but you'll only understand if you've been hurt and turned to the tortured artist for consolation ("I would do most anything to have you back by my side," cries Robert Smith, the perennial case-in-point). The Smiths-infused jangly guitars of "Changes Are No Good" interplay sublimely with that aforementioned disco bass, creating a vague longing for a Logic Will Break Your Heart vinyl-press. Fletcher's breathy "...will it ruin my make-up?" only adds to the song's seduction. The silent provocation apparent in "Of Montreal" will resonate especially deeply during that questioning walk after the storm; the Mogwai-strummed guitars explode like a-burst of the purest April teardrop/raindrop. The classic on the record, however, is "Love and Death." Fine China's going to be pissed that the Stills stole their gig (Fine China's been perfecting this retro-pop for almost five years, culminating in the entirely excellent You Make Me Hate Music), but "Love and Death"'s undeniable success comes from its chorus: "I'm just so sick of wasting my time/Love and death are always on my mind." When the Stills sing it, you sing along because you've been there too.
In the end the Stills have crafted a record ripe with bits of-transcendence, but the lack of consistency and the dramatic ska-exuberance to gothic-spires aboutface leaves one wondering. Oh, and the next time I request "Sippin' Sunshine" at a Stills-show, you think they'll ignore me like they did in October?
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