Trembling Blue Stars
The Seven Autumn Flowers
eople throw around the word safety too often when deriding an album. Newsflash: critics also hate AC/DC, but people keep buying their records despite the fact that the words to “T.N.T.” could be used for every song they ever recorded. I find this endearing, rather than irritating. People who crave that sort of security need The Trembling Blue Stars because they know that the group isn’t one that is going to mess around with things like progression and adventurous new territories. Aren’t they usually boring anyway?
Much like AC/DC, The Trembling Blue Stars base their songs around human relationships (try “Pick up the phone / I’m here alone” vs. “But you’re here with me / So let’s give no thought to sorrow”). But unlike that Aussie group’s insistence on movement at all costs, the Stars are indie and thus favor a paralytic stance towards action of any sort (“I waited at the airport gate/ Until your plane stared moving”).
Perhaps the fact that they sound nothing like one another is the reason that they’re not often compared to one another. The Stars are led by the former head of the Field Mice, Bob Wratten twee-pop extraordinaire. And as you might expect, things are very much in that vein for the majority of the group’s fifth album aside from minor deviations from the form that has given him so much success over the years.
Opener “Helen Reddy” is that typical slab of brilliance that gives you hope that Wratten has found a different muse this time around. While that doesn’t quite pan out, for its four-and-a-half minute running time it excites because of its fleshed-out production and guest vocal turn from Beth Arzy. Similarly, “The Rhythm of Your Breathing” confuses the listener on first listen due to its swinging drum beat and echoed guitar (probably the closest Wratten will ever tread to reggae). And while “All Eternal Things” sounds like classic Stars, in spots, it also evokes a moodiness too reminiscent of The Cure to be properly ignored.
Sure, there are minor ways in which Wratten moves his brainchild away from a punishing sameness, but it’s more than fair to say that the formula that Wratten has built into a veritable cottage industry of crystal clear guitar lines, staid drumming, and a bass tuned to the key of depression is as predictable as the bombastic riffage of AC/DC. Both are bands that are useful for moments, but not recommended in heavy doses. Exposure to either for extended periods of time may lead to addictive behavior hazardous to your health. But, then again, you’ll probably get over it eventually. Go ahead, wallow in it.
Reviewed by: Sarah Kahrl
Reviewed on: 2005-02-17