Dark Star – Out Flew Reason

This is a revelation. Dark Star occupied the space left behind by the rush of Britpop, along with the likes of Ultrasound, Mansun, Placebo and Muse, fusing psychedelic pop with a harder, more epic edge, making way for what became splinters of post-rock. All of this was brushed aside with the meteoric rise of Coldplay, and some of us didn’t make it. Only Muse held out for a while in some dystopian anti-nuclear bunker, until they too succumbed to the temptations of the pop baubles. Once the air had cleared of the cocaine dust of the post-Britpop come down, the US had arrived and cleared up the indie scene, as bands like The Killers and The Strokes hoovered up the last remnants of its bloated corpse. The last stand never came and unfortunately the few of us left to fight were too busy with our own personal dramas, which sapped all our energies…shame.

This album was recorded in 2000 as a follow up to their debut “Twenty Twenty Sound” which saw them appear on Later With Jools Holland and tour with the likes of Ultrasound and Suede. They were formed after the very public dissolution of  Levitation, a band singer and guitarist Christian “Bic” Hayes joined after a brief stint in Cardiacs. Along with his two band mates Dave Francolini on drums and Bassist Laurence O’Keefe, they formed Dark Star together in 1996, releasing their debut album (in a beautifully packaged gatefold sleeve) two years later, which saw them scrape into the top 30 with two singles “Graceadelica” and “I Am The Sun”. The band then took themselves up to Rockfield studios to work on a second album, which due to the usual musical differences bollocks, and a fall out with their label, led to it being shelved…until now that is, as it has been made available to download via Bandcamp, and I do hope a vinyl release to come, as, I know it’s a little early, but this could well be my contender for album of the year, and it would sound awesome too.

Whereas their first album suffered a little from a thinness of production, this album belts you round the face with full force from the outset. If the first album was a caged beast, now its burst right out of the traps and is running full force right into your path, gnarling and snarling. But enough of my bad analogies, let’s get down to it shall we?

“Perfectly Simple” eases its way into the brain, setting up a pleasing drone before the song crashes into the ‘perfectly simple’ chorus on a tidal wave of noise, the bass pedalling away on overdrive as Bic lists fears and paranoia with a resigned terror, creepy textures echo around the solid drums of Mr. Francolini, while half heard voices in the ether make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. “Roman Road” is a juggernaut, with Bic’s guitar taking centre stage, part Syd Barrett, part Thurston Moore, winding up the dynamics and letting rip, before giving way to the building  beauty of  “As We Come Down” and the strange and ethereal “Three Seconds”, with its mandolin style repeated 3 note pattern. “Nowhere But Here” has a heavy distorted bass, and as the guitars scream around it Bic’s voice remains crystalline and clear, creating a beautiful but very haunting serenity. “Strangers & Madmen” starts like a sped up “Starla” by The Smashing Pumpkins, before morphing into a ballsy glitter ball floating on a raging sea, the middle 8 sputtering like stars in the firmament. “The Only Way” betrays its prog roots with Johnny Greenwood style starbursts and wah-wah headfucks, hanging suspended over a lava flow of stoned drums, and strangely shifting dub bass, while Bic declaims ‘we can’t deceive ourselves/we don’t need anybody else’, while a chorus of vocals chants along. Things get a little darker with “Blue Murder”, which sounds like “Laughing” or “Dub Housing” by Pere Ubu, with its unsettling chord shapes and low spoken vocals. It is brilliantly underscored with a flicknife of tension surrounding its diamond-like heart. It slowly fades to whistles while Bic repeats the line ‘find somewhere I can call my own’ over again. Dave Francolini’s  perfectly timed syncopation leads us into final song “Ghosts” while Bic intones us to ‘keep the room cold/keep the front door closed’. This song has such funk…it’s goth-funk, which sounds like an interesting genre! My only complaint is that every song ends too soon.

There are a few parallels with later bands like Vennart, and especially Amplifier, and possibly because of the post rock bands that have come in the wake of them, this album sounds fresh and current still…perhaps more so than it might have then. It was definitely an album ahead of its time and they must have known what a great thing they had achieved, which makes its non-release even more tragic. The world has been without this record for far too long, but now it can be enjoyed. Do yourself a favour – get yourself over to bandcamp, download this, and play it loud, and appreciate it. Records as good as this don’t come around that much. Now when are we going to get a physical release…and perhaps some gigs? Over to you


Andrew Wood


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