“Yeah you give me that physical feeling, butterflies when I’m walking the streets with you”
Lovestarrs – Planet Lovestarr (DEFDISCO) 10/10
Lovestarrs today released their long awaited debut album Planet Lovestarr. Singer Sarah McIntosh and her brother, bassist Hamish, were helped by a bunch of eminent Swedish producers to create a slick synthpop sound in an excellent record characterised by several real earworms.
This album only came to fruition after an innovative Kickstarter campaign including rewards like “afternoon tea at the Ritz” plus Skype and gaming sessions with the band and custom-recorded covers of any song in addition to the standard CDs and autographs. Their outstanding videos for the singles have drawn much attention, and Lovestarrs also have friends in high places, being championed by the likes of Gaydio DJ Phil Marriott and comedian Matt Lucas.
Formerly promising band The Good Natured, along with drummer George Hinton before he quit music, they played Glastonbury and appeared to have a bright future until they were dropped by EMI. The label then kept the masters of their planned debut album in the can, which despite the group’s best efforts, is where they remain, necessitating the crowdfunding effort to make their own masters this time around and license them to their label, DEFDISCO.
So it’s perhaps fitting, then, that the opening track is the moody Life Is a Bitch, a clarion call for all those who have been bedraggled (like The Good Natured), cheated by circumstances (like The Good Natured) and fobbed off (like The Good Natured) to get the hell up and go again, something done by example in the next thirteen tracks.
Next comes one of the band’s early songs, the buzzing Bullet from Lovestarrs’ debut EP, which brings the pace up a couple of notches. The urgent ethereal sound effects frame the vocal here brilliantly, a theme we see recurring throughout.
Get Your Sexy On and Somebody Like You, a pair of singles, follow, presenting the band at their most relevant. The former was praised by The Guardian on its release in 2014, while the latter combines smooth synths with Sarah’s perfectly honest delivery superbly.
WTF is perhaps the most interesting song on the album. With the same backing but a lyric largely re-written from last year’s single WTF (Pop Culture), the song has moved from potentially catastrophically dating with the refrain “who the fuck is Donald/who the fuck is David” to an evergreen tune referring to characters and not current affairs, switching the subject to a disloyal partner. However, the strip they are torn off means that WTF loses nothing of the original’s vivacity and punch.
The vehemently patriotic London Town is given a makeover in the studio from its live incarnation, embellished with sweet backing vocals, handclaps and a filthy beat.
A few of the rhymes in the album could quite conceivably have been written in a Year 3 English class. There’s the extremely tenuous couplet in the chorus of the next track: “we’re coming at’cha like Frank Sinatra.” One cannot help wishing at this point that Margaret Thatcher was the famous crooner and Ol’ Blue Eyes had been the hated Prime Minister. Sarah continues: “Dressed up like penguins in tuxedoes, tonight we’re cooler than an igloo.” Good grief.
Elsewhere, though, Frank Sinatra is what we now know as classic Lovestarrs, with an interesting variety of effects on the backing track and a club-ready dance beat.
Though I could barely believe it, the thumping, defiant Good Girls is even more unashamedly bubblegum, far more so than anything from the Good Natured era. “I’m like a chocolate with liquor inside,” exclaims Sarah, “I know I look delicious, but I’m bad and vicious.” But the more lighthearted lexical choices of these two songs hardly presents a flaw, especially when you consider the counter-balance of the likes of Get Your Sexy On.
Good Girls also delivers what could be a much more forceful, substantial and considered reply to Taio Cruz’ Break Your Heart. The seven year wait doesn’t matter.
I’m almost certain that the synth parts of Drop Dead Gorgeous are heavily influenced by a particular song, but it’s been done with such skill that it’s a bastard to work out which one. The fact that I can’t for the life of me think of it is highly irritating, answers on a postcard would be greatly appreciated.
Nevertheless, it is superb, with the power-pop of its guitar-led choruses and uplifting theme making this one of the most listenable tunes on the album.
Barflies’ sparseness places particular importance on Hamish’s funky bass line and its layered vocals. Giving something different, the rawness of the track is a shock to the system, providing some much needed grit and abrasion after the cleanliness and smoothness of earlier cuts.
The nostalgic Kids Again is the closest you can get to a dream presented in sonic form. Perfectly leading into the interlinking 80s Love Song, together they provide the album’s late peak, with the latter perfectly channelling the decade’s influence on the Home Counties duo, with an albeit muted structural nod towards Uptown Funk too.
Closing track Too Cool for School calls on the rebellious, feisty influence of 2014 Charli XCX in its chanted verses reminiscent of Hollaback Girl. ‘We don’t give a fuck,’ they suggest, ‘do your worst, we’re great and if you get it, you’ll get it.’ A natural conclusion after Lovestarrs have finally laid down their full manifesto. Lovestarrs could easily be singing directly at the music industry from their happy perch of finally being in control and genuinely happy with their work.
Let’s be honest. This is not All Things Must Pass. You won’t experience any epiphanies as a result of listening to Planet Lovestarr. Neither will you find any answers to life’s great mysteries contained within the lyrics. But Lovestarrs never claim to offer this.
For some infectiously catchy pop hooks, fun lyrics and vocals with a distinctly British hue in an American and Scandinavian-dominated genre, look no further. Planet Lovestarr is an album that’s been well worth the wait.
All photos: DEFDISCO/Lovestarrs (via Twitter)
Videos: DEFDISCO (Somebody Like You promo); Gareth Burnett (London Town recorded live at Reading’s Oakford Social Club on tour last year).