Staff Review



Northern Spy Records

Sometimes, you can look at an album cover and know exactly what you're getting. Such is the case with Starring's latest record, ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP-QRSTUV-WXYZ. Setting aside the terrible band name/album title, ABC's Magic Eye album cover hints at the atrociously spastic psychedelics to come. And just as you can't really read the lettering on the cover, you can't really tell which song is which here.

Starring's brand of psychedelia revolves around disorientation. The band constantly shifts tempos and rhythms, never really settling into a groove but never really achieving a high enough level of technicality to complement the approach. The songs simply feel formless. Clara Hunter could be called the band's "frontwoman," to the extent that her vocals appear sporadically. But nothing she says carries much weight, either musically or lyrically. She's simply…there.

ABC essentially feels like listening to a scratched-to-hell copy of "Nights in White Satin." The only track to really deviate from that mood is "----------Oooooooooooooo" (fuck your titles, Starring. Fuck them right in their stupid little lengthy character counts), which turns into an ambient drone about halfway through its nine-minute running time. It's not the most complex composition, but its sparse arrangement stands in such stark contrast to the preceding tracks that it stands out. It doesn't redeem the album, but at least it shows some diversity.

But then "Aphonia" kicks in and Starring gets back to the psych noodling. Granted, "Aphonia" actually sticks to a central riff for a while, but by this point ABC has used up all its tricks. The record's second half attempts to dial down the energy again, and while there are flashes of shoegaze and noise pop, nothing takes shape. And when I say the shoegaze elements are the most coherent parts, you best believe me when I call the record a soupy mess.