The title of Portland-based electro band Starfucker’s reissued and reworked EP-sort-of-album Jupiter sets the listener’s expectations sky high. What the band have created, however, does not wholly represent the planetary level promise that they give. I think the main problem I had with the album is that each song is good, but it just doesn’t work as a whole. There is no flow; I was expecting Jupiter and I got Mars.
The album features several fantastically catchy pop songs. Opener ‘Medicine’ bases itself around a key hook that sticks around for the whole song and will be stuck in the listener’s head long after. The music surrounding said hook changes key and jumps about like a hyper child, uplifting the listener into a synth-driven euphoria. Equally as catchy is the mind-bendingly happy follow-up ‘Boy Toy’, featuring the album’s first vocals. The highlight of the album has to be the surprise cover of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, which incorporates the band’s signature dance elements whilst retaining the original’s bassline throughout like a metronome, showing the band’s appreciation of the brilliance of their source material.
Dance music is a tricky, often formulaic genre, and to be successful it is a requirement to make a song that sticks in people’s heads. A few of the songs on Jupiter suffer from just being ‘alright’. ‘Dance Face 200’, ‘Bed Study’ and ‘Biggie Smalls’ are all listenable, but whether or not they are ‘re-listenable’ is another argument. It’s not that they are poor, it’s just that if I were to pick up the album I’d skip straight past them in favour of other songs that stick out and don’t just blend into the ‘filler’ section of the album.
Despite possessing several fantastic pop songs, the album often slows the pace, putting forward songs that sound like a more focused and beat-driven The Flaming Lips. If the aforementioned songs were not present then such surreal numbers would make more sense, but in their presence the album seems to lack focus, making the journey from catchy pop in the form of ‘Medicine’ to a sparse chilled-out space jam in closer ‘Jamie’, with no gradual progression; more of a tiring shuffle between genres.
To elaborate on this, ‘Flight of the Orange Astronauts’ is a good song. It’s fuzzy vocal samples and trippy synths making it seem like the dance companion to David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ echoing said songs general feeling of ‘confusion in space’ (or what I imagine being confused in space would probably feel like). Similarly, ‘Jupiter’ is an interesting song that I could only compare to an Arabian Game Boy caught in a tornado. The problem is that any music that can be compared to The Flaming Lips is concept-driven, and therefore requires time to relax into and should be enjoyed as one relaxing and engulfing experience. In a short EP that includes a cover of ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ the relaxing euphoria that the more surreal songs begin to show glimpses of are destroyed as the listener is instantly ‘woken’ by the vocal-driven, catchier numbers.
To summarise, nothing on this album is bad. It is obvious that Starfucker are incredibly talented and draw on a diverse range of influences, it just seems that they need to find a way of putting the ideas in a more logical sense. Perhaps the album would benefit from sticking to a more similarly themed series of songs rather than jumping from a song describing the simple fun-based needs of girls to a musical detailing of a group of ‘Orange Astronaughts’ around an area of space.
Finally, the remix of ‘Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second’ randomly stuck on the end of the album absolutely ruins the fantastic simplicity of the original song. It seems the band got to the end of the last song and thought “It’s too short, isn’t it?”, and conceived to dig this tune out of a folder called ‘poor and unnecessary remixes’ at random and put it on the bill. It doesn’t fit in anywhere.
Good: Some moments of pop perfection.
Bad: Lack of focus, good songs from both the pop and the psychedelic genre that just don’t seem to gel well together.