Stars: The Five Ghosts Live


The up and down surprises of growing up in high school make for an interesting experience. I walk into the Stars’ performance knowing nothing about them except that all members of the group were formerly a part of Broken Social Scene. I venture into The Independent for their second sold-out show like a kid on his first day of school, anxiously excited and totally unprepared. Though their newest album The Five Ghosts hadn’t been released (released June 21st) at the time, the group chose to play the album from beginning to end. It’s an ambitious effort, which in some reviews I’ve read is meant “only for the true Star fans.” I’m not a “true” fan. I’ve never walked these halls, but I lend my ear.

*photos by Melissa Clark

At first, I feel like I’ve stepped into an advanced language class with a tongue I’m not suited to understand. After doing my homework (post-show), The Five Ghosts does not drift thematically from the Stars’ typical platform of dramatic, bordering melodramatic, bordering “stop whining!” Songs like “Changes” pair with blank stares out rainy day windows. “Dead Hearts” is dramatically charged like a Broadway musical on anti-depressants. Ominous lyrics like “this is the last time that there’s going to be a last time, you’re going to wake up without it,” from “The Last Song Ever Written,” sound heavier than a mother’s guilt, and almost feel a little ridiculous. So being unaware of this lyrical soap opera, I feel like I am listening to a soundtrack for Sixteen Candles.

So I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and let out any judgments—a trick from my counselor. The background coos. The accentuated guitar licks. The gentle pulsating bass line. They get under my skin. I start tapping my feet. Then four tracks into the set “Fixed” takes a refreshing shift to an upbeat tempo as vocalist Amy Millan sings “it’s all in your head, wondering if I am fisticuffs.” I smile at the use of “fisticuffs”—feeling it’s bold, ridiculous, and awesome. The pace continues with the synth laden “We Don’t Want Your Body,” that echos krautrock and begs for a 80s dance off with zebra pants, and bobbing ponytails. The atmosphere turns to a dance party, and I’m thrilled by the opportunity.

During “Changes” both vocalist (Torquill Campbell and Amy Millian) embrace each other while singing. A fan screams “Makeout!” and the immaturity coupled with 80s prom dance music makes it hard for me to shake thoughts that I am in high school. But I’m okay as I find comfort in the sonic familiarities to personal favorites like La Roux, Bat For Lashes and Flock of Seagulls.

After completing The Five Ghosts the set breaks for a short recess. When Millian returns she excitedly states, “Now songs you will know!” She gives a good stage kick, and then dives quickly into their most ubiquitous hit, “Your Ex-Lover is Dead.” There is more edginess to some of the older hits, which encourages me to dig into my history books for more mp3s. I leave soon after because it was a school night, and though I was having fun, I had to prepare this review for you.

- David Johnson-Igra

[ play ] | [ download mp3 ] Stars - The Night Starts Here

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