The chorus of the title track on Stars’ new album “In Our Bedroom After the War” proclaims: “The war is over and we are beginning.” As appealing as that statement might be in any other context, here it serves as a reminder of just how much of a letdown this CD is. If the war is over, then it looks like the Canadian indie rock group raised the white flag of surrender too soon, because the rest of the album indicates that peace is not worth making music about.
The album starts off with a slow, anticipation-building beat, leading into a satisfying electronic swell on the first track, “The Beginning After the End.” The following song, “The Night Starts Here,” is perhaps the best track on the album. It’s dark, heavily textured, and vaguely reminiscent of something you might find on their excellent 2004 CD “Set Yourself On Fire.”
But instead of building off this promising beginning, the rest of the songs range from mediocre to disappointing. The one exception is the title track, which ends the album in a pleasantly epic manner, as Stars fans might have hoped based on the grand, sweeping songs that characterized their previous album. But listening to the songs in between these highlights — that is, most of the album — feels a little like wading through soup, only more boring. “Barricade,” a nostalgic piano ballad from the perspective of a violent revolutionary longing for his comrade-in-arms (a good idea in theory, much like Communism), sounds like the band is trying for a particularly insipid cross between Damien Rice and Elton John. Quite a few songs, such as the overly earnest “My Favourite Book,” are saved only by Amy Millan’s sweetly wavering voice. Other tracks, quiet and dragging, are almost entirely unmemorable.
So while there are a few redeeming moments, “In Our Bedroom After the War” mostly sounds like it was created after the signing of a peace treaty that left the band members half-asleep in their bedrooms without any real fuel for creativity. What’s really lacking here is the grandiose, fiery wartime torment that made their last album so remarkable. In “One More Night,” one of the best songs off of “Set Yourself On Fire,” Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan offered a chilling duet describing the sexual passion that exists in a bitter, disintegrating relationship. Where is that emotional intensity, that sense of drama and passion, on their new album? Even the cheerful, upbeat pop sensibility of “Hearts,” which immediately preceded “Set Yourself On Fire,” would be better than this slow, mopey languidness.
For people who don’t know Stars or aren’t expecting anything along the lines of their previous releases, “In Our Bedroom After the War” is worth listening to if you can get it for free. Otherwise, unless you are looking for a soundtrack to sigh along to, don’t bother giving peace a chance.