Overhyped Starsailor debut never able to take off

by Sam Lederer | 2/26/02 6:00am

"If you get high on life, don't leave me behind," sings Starsailor front man James Walsh on "Lullaby," a track from the band's debut album, "Love is Here." Unfortunately, James, that is exactly what I would like to do with you and the other three members of your sub-par indie rock quartet: leave you behind, and forget about you.

Starsailor has been hyped up for over a year now. The publicity commenced with the release of their debut single, "Fever," which caused a sensation in the U.K. Immediately, they were hailed as "Britain's best new band," a distinction that doesn't say much for the British music scene.

The band was formed in Wigan, England, by Walsh (vocals/guitar), James Stelfox (bass) and Ben Byrne (drums). The addition of Barry Westhead on keyboards cemented the group's lineup.

In April 2000, a demo tape containing "Fever" and a few other tracks began to circulate, and entertainment goliath EMI quickly snatched the group up and signed them to a record contract. Starsailor toured the U.K. before the release of their second single, "Good Souls," in April 2001. The song's feel-good message and standard melody secured it a spot on the Brit Top 20 chart.

Well, the British must have a thing for repetition because I enjoyed Starsailor the last time, when their name was Coldplay. And I liked them even more the first time, when they were called Travis.

"Love is Here" is nothing more than an 11-track marathon through musical basics and trite lyrics.

The theme of self-pity that runs rampant throughout the release is exhausted on the first track, "Tie Up My Hands." Walsh's delivery is somewhat impressive at this point; it has that eerie and trembling quality that is so popular in today's music scene. But the song's basic three-chord melody drowns out his stellar vocals and makes for a bad listen.

Without Bono's superstar personality, Starsailor can't hope to achieve U2's prominence as the least-talented best rock band. And this is evident on tracks like "Poor Misguided Fool" and "Way to Fall." The songs are stank with basic lyrics and childish rhymes like "There's a hole in my boat, and I need to stay afloat."

My main qualm with the album is that all the songs sound the same. Over and over it's the same four-minute, acoustic guitar-laden, sappy lyric-driven anthem of mediocrity.

"Coming Down" and "Fever" appear to be exactly the same song, with the theme of loss replaced with neglect.

I did, however, enjoy the song "Talk Her Down." Its catchy lyrics and Spanish-flavored guitars grabbed my attention after seven tracks of Kid Rock-quality trash. The fiery, yet floating, keyboard section midway through the song complemented Walsh's harsh strumming very well.

The title track, along with "Good Souls," belongs on one of those bad compilations of pick-me-up songs advertised on TV at four in the morning. The band's lack of talent and simplistic styles are exposed behind Walsh's line, "We'll sing these stupid songs forever." Please, please don't, James.

"Love is Here" is the biggest letdown since the XFL. But the XFL did do a little better than Starsailor; the defunct league managed to produce Rod "He Hate Me" Smart, who now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. Smart should probably have changed monikers with Walsh and crew.

After sufficiently bashing this foursome from across the Atlantic, I am still a little dismayed. To the members of Starsailor: you have wasted an hour of my time with your mediocre CD; I want it back.