Starsailor:All the Plans (Virgin)

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Starsailor: Boy in Waiting
Starsailor:All the Plans (Virgin)

When this English four-piece emerged in 2000 the world was very different: it was the post-Oasis/post-Verve period (they had conspicuously failed to fulfill the promise) and the British rock press was scanning for new heroes. It found the likes of Travis, Coldplay and, albeit briefly, Starsailor.

There was also the informal New Acoustic Movement of the Doves, Turin Brakes and Ed Harcourt (like any movement called "new" it was bound to have no longevity) and Starsailor were pegged with that label.

They were very young (barely out of school) but in James Walsh had a good-looking singer with a powerful voice, and they wrote in the classic manner of big ballads which Walsh could deliver with ease. He invited comparisons with Jeff Buckley -- and of course the band took their name from a Tim Buckley album. They had some terrific songs too.

So with all the ducks in place it only remained for the British rock press -- which had hailed Starsailor before their debut album -- to shoot them down. And it did.

But they have soldiered on, probably still playing to decent audiences but never quite cracking that huge Coldplay-style crossover. And unlike Coldplay, Radiohead and others to whom they were compared, Starsailor never really moved on much musically.

"All these bands like Coldplay and Starsailor, good bands all of them," said Idlewild singer Roddy Woomble back in 2005, "they play their songs really well, but there'’s never any chaos theory to it; there'’s never anything that goes wrong."

That was an astute observation -- but of course with Viva la Vida and help from studio experimentalist Brian Eno and electronica artist Jon Hopkins, Coldplay have thrown a spanner into their well-oiled machine. And been rewarded.

Radiohead made the big leap too.

But Starsailor haven't and good though this album is -- and that voice, those ballads, that open-hearted attitude are all here -- there is no chaos, no sense of urgency or anxiety -- and that's despite Walsh singing of the customary woes of the world.

There are no obvious singles although three or four songs certainly have that potential in a more benign radio climate. Big choruses, big strumming guitars, big vocals, big issues . . . all here.

But good though it is (and it is very good in places) you sense Starsailor need to have someone come in and duff them up a bit in the studio in the manner of Radiohead and Coldplay. Someone should give them Jon Hopkins' phone number. 

 

 

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