In Our Bedroom After the War
[Arts & Crafts; 2007]


“…will we wake in the morning and know what it was for, up in our bedrooms after the war?”

Imagine walking into your room, ready to fall into bed, ready to sleep, but for some reason you decide to crawl out of your open bedroom window and escape into the city. Maybe you’ve slept all day, maybe sleep just isn’t coming, or maybe you’ve mixed up an ungodly redbull/espresso/legal-white-pill-concoction designed to wire you for the foreseeable future. Whatever the case, the night is stretching out in front of you with complete potential and dangerous hope. Whatever your dark adventure, Canadian orchestral pop-rockers Stars provides a capable soundtrack.

So let’s kick this long evening off right, because _In Our Bedroom After the War_ is about every time you decided to answer the phone instead of silencing it, every time you walked out the door instead of into bed, and every single moment that you’ve spent on the moonlight side of life. While those intervals may leave you exhausted for the next week and wondering what exactly happened, those are moments that you don’t/can’t forget.

Everything starts with the beautiful epigram-laced intro, “The Beginning after the End,” and from that moment on, it’s hard to imagine yourself not playing a role in each of the albums thirteen tracks. It’s even harder when lead singers Amy Milan and Torquil Campbell lace a seductive, danceable beat with their smooth voices, pleading, “the night starts here, forget your name, forget your fears.” From that point on, you’re sucked into this evening’s adventure and wherever Milan and Campbell might decide to go; you’re stuck for the ride.

While the night may have started on the second track, it’s not until the driving crescendo of “Take Me to the Riot” finally breaks, that you feel like you finally understand what the lure of the night actually means. It’s in the capacity packed clubs, dancing with strangers you’ve never seen and will never see again. It’s in the climax of the stage with the lead singer controlling the emotions of every person in the room—one set list, two encores, and a collective gasp for air at the end. “Take Me to the Riot” is arguably one of the most epic songs Stars have ever written, but the night doesn’t stop here.

Whoever the hero of this album might be can’t escape romance, as the slow ballad “My Favorite Book” slows everything down. If “Take Me to the Riot” was the climax, “My Favorite Book” is the curbside afterwards. But this slowdown only lasts one song, as “Midnight Coward” highlights what Stars does perfectly, ethereally sweet pop songs built around the tag-tandem combination of Campbell and Milan.

Unfortunately this record seemed to be cursed with the same fate afflicting movie theaters, Cinderella, and curfew chained teens: midnight is the last call for excitement. “The Ghost of Genova Heights” is the worst track—an attempt to create a ballad surrounding a pacifist general that comes off schmaltzy, overwrought, and just plain boring.

The next four songs make up the rest of the dark morning hours and the sleep-deprived tracks paint an incredibly pessimistic view of the world. Whether it’s nearly-cliché piano-driven protestor and police action drama of “Barricade,” or the doomed love of Milan’s warbling “Window Bird,” the final hours of the night could be summed up in a line from “Life 2: The Unhappy Ending”: “Why can’t the ending be happy? Why must it always resolve this way?”

R.E.M. made sure we knew that everybody hurts, but for some reason Stars seems bound to make sure that everybody hopes. Whether it’s “Don’t Be Afraid to Sing” (_Heart_) or “Calendar Girl” (_Set Yourself on Fire_), Stars always finishes their adventures pointing at the light, rather than the darkness. Motivated more out of an existential choice rather than any true reliance on ultimate salvation, the pop-maestros finish their latest album in the same place, with the title track answering the sunrise with something nearly as glorious.

It starts slow, with Campbell and a quiet piano gently waking up the exhausted audience. By the time the song hits its gloriously blinding conclusion with trumpets, violins, guitars and a full chorus blasting forth; even the most tired of cynics couldn’t believe that the future was devoid of good.

While _In Our Bedroom After the War_ isn’t perfect, few nights are. The album breaks little new artistic ground for the Canadians, recycling some themes and hooks, but it keeps on doing what Stars has been doing since their beginning: making beautiful pop songs. That’s something pretty special in our modern musical landscape as pop music has been profaned and cheapened to the point of near irrelevancy, but when Stars takes you on a musical journey through the night, you can’t help but smile.

Nathan Martin is a contributing writer for The CCM Patrol.

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Nathan Martin

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