splendid > reviews > 11/18/2003
The Stills
The Stills
Logic Wil Break Your Heart
Vice Recordings

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Gender Bombs"

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The Stills have always shown promise, but Logic Will Break Your Heart ascends far beyond anyone's wildest expectations; they've shot a hole in the moon, and the torrents of lunar loveliness that seep from its open wound have bathed their tunes in a luminous transcendence that a thousand Robert Smith clones couldn't duplicate. While we've all heard the album's recurring themes of death, loneliness and love before, the steely conviction with which The Stills deliver is as rare as a visit from Halley's Comet. The pain they speak of is real, plumbed from years spent watching dreams die in a haze of sleep and booze.

Logic Will Break Your Heart is a pop record, albeit a fascinatingly warped one that often sounds too surreal to be true. Tim Fletcher's vocals sound as if they were beamed in via narrow-band satellite feed; his timbre remains oddly paranormal, a strange cross-pollination of Davids Bowie and Gedge, and Fletcher and Greg Paquet's starlit guitar-work startles the bleak landscape. They jar "Lola Stars and Stripes" into sycophantic life, and send "Love and Death" into a melodramatic flurry of emotional bombast. Their chic retro flair comes in the form of "Gender Bombs"' genteel backbeats and reverbed fifths -- a sublimely subterranean take on REM's early jangle-pop template that never comes across as contrived, something you really can't say about the bands currently rehashing the early '80s indie aesthetic.

The Stills' wounded-heart semantics may be pure early eighties Manchester, but the glamorous, mascara-stained bravado they exude in tracks like "Ready for It" is wholly their own -- a Marc Bolanesque take on existential woe. What's more, they never wallow in self-pity; instead, they channel it into intoxicating slices of nouveau-post-punk derision that sparkle in the dusky light.

Of course, when a band reaches so aggressively for the stars, they're bound to crash back to earth on occasion -- but within the album's stark context, even minor gaffes like the predictable "Of Montreal" and "Allison Krausse" don't sound entirely out-of-place. They simply lack the jaw-dropping ardor that propels other tracks to heights of future-greatness. Even if such tracks are a byproduct of excess ambition, who are we to spit in the face of progress -- particularly when it appears before us in such sullenly spectacular form?

The Stills have crafted an album that has everything -- and yet nothing to do with the revolution currently shaking their adopted New York to pieces. If there's any justice in this cruel world, someone will be turning on the bright lights for The Stills any day now.



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