What’s with all the “fuck” in the indie rock world? You’ve got Fuck Buttons, Holy Fuck, Fucked Up, and Starfucker. These four bands use their print-unfriendly names proudly. Perhaps wanting to get more press, Starfucker is also known as STRFKR. However, neither moniker fits the music of the Portland-based electro-pop quartet. Starfucker should really call themselves Starlite — after Rainbow Brite’s flying horse. (If you don’t know what that is, ask anyone who was a little kid in the ’80s to explain.) Like Starlite, Starfucker’s sound is colorful, buoyant, and upbeat. Reptilians is the band’s third album in as many years, and the first for Polyvinyl Records.
No matter how many layered synths and swirly flourishes Reptilians provides, simple four-chord progressions anchor the 12 tracks. But the album is not boring, not by a long shot. The diverse melodies keep everything interesting. Even the seemingly simple songs offer more than meets the ear. For example, the start of “Astoria” sounds just like the beginning of the Beatles “Get Back.” But yes, the four-chord progression is just a tad dissonant and off-kilter. The elegant Enya-esque “Mona Vegas” is lush and majestic.
Apparently, the passing of frontman Josh Hodges’ grandma inspired the lyrics, which mainly focus on death. Starfucker even samples some relevant musings from Alan Watts for three tracks. Apart from the snippets of lecture from the British philosopher, the vocals on this otherwise clean record are a little mushy. And no, enabling the “vocal” equalizer on your sound system doesn’t help. Maybe that’s the work of producer Jacob Portrait, who has steered some of the gauzy sounds of the Dandy Warhols. Or, it could be Josh Hodges’ delivery. Hodges sings with detached calm much like Pinback’s Armistead Burwell Smith, IV. He carries the biting couplet (and only lyric) “I love to see you crying/ So happy when you’re sad” in the energetic, second-to-last track “Millions.” Starfucker ends their pop record about death powerfully. “Quality Time” is a dynamic and dance-friendly instrumental. That’s probably the most affirming statement yet from the band.
Polyvinyl Records: www.polyvinylrecords.com