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Electric Stars - Sonic Candy Soul

  by Adrian Janes

published: 12 / 1 / 2013

Electric Stars - Sonic Candy Soul
Label: Detour Records
Format: CD


Catchy 60’s and early 70’s retro pop from Manchester-band Electric Stars, which, however, lacks its own individuality

This is the debut album from Manchester’s Electric Stars, the opening line of first track ‘136’ proclaiming its ambition to make “Beautiful music for beautiful people”. It is but the first of many nods to the style of the 60s and early 70s. 136’ is a straightahead” pop-rock song, the blend of acoustic and electric guitars evoking ‘Hunky Dory’-era Bowie, while its “Ba ba ba da da” backing vocals call to mind ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ Like much of this album, it is competently played and sung without ever feeling like it’s going to really catch fire. Next, the mid-paced ‘Between the Streets and the Sky’ is underpinned by a supple bass line and sports a catchy chorus; indeed, a number of the songs have tunes with this quality of being able to lodge in your brain. ‘Alison Williams’ is a poignant ballad which features effective piano and rich swelling organ, along with shadings of Leslie guitar. Vocalist Jason Edge doesn’t have the strongest of voices, being quite delicate in tone: he is thus best suited to this kind of material, especially when conveying the vulnerability needed here, a song whose protagonist suffers from some kind of mental illness. ‘I Want You’ has a mid-60’s feel, with its real handclaps and Beatles-que guitar. The final part of the song is the most interesting on the album, where soaring, phased guitar is interspersed with the earlier handclaps, a sonic intertwining of the mid and late 60s that unfortunately is all too short. ‘Blind’ is another ballad, where electric piano and female backing vocals vary the approach and which concludes with a ‘Hey Jude’-style anthemic chant. ‘Who’s Gonna Satisfy Me?’ has more urgency than most of the songs, but still there is a feeling of overall restraint where each time the band sound on the verge of cutting loose they pull back again, keeping it in the camp of pop-rock rather than solid rock. Despite its seemingly obvious title, the ballad ‘Stoned Again’, has an ambiguity about it: does it concern the intoxication of drugs or love? Delicate guitar, well-judged trumpet and backing vocals by Denise Johnson (who has previously worked with Primal Scream) again highlight that the most fully-realised songs here are of this stamp. In fact much of the latter part of the album (‘Old Fashion (sic) Girl’, ‘Bedtime Stories’ and ‘Isolation’’ are essentially ballads, ‘Not Man Enough’ being the exception. The latter recalls the Sweet, wispy vocals set against heavier guitar work. Overall this album shows real potential, as the band can clearly play and each track is approached differently (e.g. the unrepeated use of synth and kettledrums on ‘Bedtime Stories’). My problem with it is that in style and approach it’s so determinedly retro. Rather than absorbing their influences, the band are being absorbed by them. Linked to this artistic problem is the commercial: who is the audience for this in 2012? Those who lived through the periods and styles recalled may well nod appreciatively, but then turn to the originals to get their 60s/70s fix. Younger people may find it rather alien compared to the music they are largely surrounded by today, but really Oasis did a better job of revamping that era for a later generation. If the Electric Stars can channel their influences so as to find their own voice they stand a better chance of breaking through.

Track Listing:-
1 136
2 Between the Streets and the Stars
3 Alison Williams
4 I Want You
5 Blind
6 Who's Gonna Satisfy Me?
7 Stoned Again
8 Old Fashion Girl
9 Not Man Enough
10 Bedtime Stories
11 Isolation

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