few years ago I forded a Midwest snowstorm to watch The Stills crank out most of their debut Logic Will Break Your Heart and all the nameless big-city wounds, young bourgeoisie angst, and segmented guitar buzz that went along with their tunes. The between song banter of lead singer Tim Fletcher focused on one thing: Montreal (their home) and how it was some kind of wonderland where the indie-rock flowed like wine, the scene kids gave a rat’s ass, and the health care was second to none. This was a band clearly in lover with the(ir) city.
On Without Feathers, The Stills of Logic sound like they have retreated from the city to a DIY lake cottage full of peeling pianos, chirpy xylophones, sing-a-long group breakdowns, and found-instrument percussion. Blame the line-up shuffle: the group added keyboardist Liam O’Neil, ditched original guitarist Greg Paquet, and put the guitar in the hands of Logic drummer Dave Hamelin (who also co-writes many of the songs here).
This is a mostly good thing; it removes the band from the triptych of giants they clearly couldn’t grapple with and lets Hamelin (looking more and more like the ringleader) mess around with woods-y echo effects and round-about handclaps on playful affairs like “On Shoplifter” and “Helicopter.”
Take a look at those song titles one more time. Now you know where the problem of Logic lies. Fletcher wants to keep digging at the wounds of the city—“tell me the story / Of your fame and misfortune,” “The house we live in / Is all I know”—while everyone else is on the patio dreaming of the country. For most of the record the band acts like they’re going in two different directions. There is an upside: Fletcher’s soul-probing produces some swooning moments on “Halo the Harpoon.” His sad-sack drone lights a bitter fire as the song swings between carefree piano and drowned guitar thrash. But most of the time it just sounds torn.
It wouldn’t be so bad if The Stills didn’t kill the majority of the newly minted loose-limbed percussion and flighty major key romps (“The Mountain”)—with drivel choruses and intermediate tricks (flooding the speakers with a porridge of every conceivable instrument). But Without Feathers does and it makes me long for the type of band that simply tells it to me straight. Wolf Parade told me they weren’t in love with the modern world. Black Mountain put “drug” right there in the song title. The Stills new penchant for divided ethos and mixed messages isn’t a front for willful ambiguity, it’s them not knowing what they want.
Reviewed by: Evan McGarvey
Reviewed on: 2006-05-10