Sunday, Dec. 12, 2004
In the spectrum of Japanese psychedelia, The Stars occupy a poppy middle ground: They are neither as noisy (nor mystical) as Acid Mothers' Temple or Ghost, nor do they opt for the atmospheric faux folksiness of Maher Shala Has Baz or The Tennis Coats. Instead, the tunes of singer-songwriter You Ishihara, as showcased in their latest record, "Will," are hung on well-crafted hooks. His voice, with a laconic dryness akin to Lou Reed, lends a slightly ironic, rather than freaked-out, feel.
Of course, there are the requisite chaotic bits, fueled by the relentlessly inventive guitar work of Michio Kurihara -- this is psychedelia after all. Kurihara's regular gig in the more free-form Ghost allows him to be crazier and louder. But the traditional structure of The Stars' songs force him to pull more from his bag of tricks besides volume and is therefore a better example of what Kurihara, easily one of Japan's best guitarists, is capable of.
The recordings of Ishihara's first band, White Heaven, are the stuff of record collectors' fantasies. He has since become a well-known producer of hard rock and psychedelic groups including heavy-metal behemoth Yura Yura Teikoku, whose bass player is also a member of The Stars. As a super group of sorts, The Stars can sometimes rely too heavily on a businesslike tightness, but when they are in sync, they are simply sublime.