There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light
(Last Gang Records, 2017)
I seriously thought Stars were done after their last album, No One Is Lost (2014). It was the first time in their long career that they sounded out of ideas and, well, done. I was sad. I saw what had to have been one of their first gigs, in a loft in Chinatown, Montreal, some time around 2000. They opened for The Dears. I was hooked (on both bands). So I felt a proprietary interest.
Stars wrote one of the best romantic songs in history, ‘Your Ex-Lover is Dead’ off their 3rd album, Set Yourself on Fire. Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan take turns attempting to convince the other that they cared less about their fling. Stars have made a career out of luxurious, poppy music which allows Campbell and Millan to play characters who have fallen in love, out of love, been cruel to each other, and so on, over the past two decades. That they’re both married to other people (she to Evan Cranley, the Band’s guitarist/bassist) makes the joke all the more delicious.
I have to admit that I was caught unawares by their new album. There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light just kind of popped up on my radar. My first thought was that they’ve visited this territory before, on “Elevator Love Letter,” from 2003, about an office romance. My next thought was that Stars were back. Maybe it’s because they entrusted production to an outsider for the first time, or maybe it’s got nothing to do with that. But this is a great album.
Stand out song ‘Alone’ has Campbell singing, well, alone. His character is a lonely boy who grows up to be a lonely man, set against the chorus, where our hero attempts to break out of his funk. ‘The Maze’ is another Campbell alone song, a song of getting over a breakup. Meanwhile, Millan on her own on ‘Real Thing’ takes on the possessive, domineering man. She is having none of that, of course. Everything about this album, from the lyrics to the singing, to the music adds to the legacy of one of the most under-rated Montreal bands ever.
No new ground broken, but no new ground needs to be broken. This is Stars. They make luxurious pop music. And they make it well.