Reviewed by: Ziggy Merritt
With various bits of ’90s nostalgia riffs floating through the broad stretches of cyberspace it’s hard not to label attempts to resurrect the decade’s music as derivative. Where some attempts at faithful reproduction might be seen as disingenuous, others have the ability to move past such attempts to discredit their sound. Bright Colors, the sophomore album from the trio behind Dead Stars thankfully veers toward the latter.
Fuzzy guitars, lo-fi production, and catchy yet meaningful lyrics all would seek to set up Bright Colors as little more than a quaint ode to the stylistics of J. Mascis and Rivers Cuomo. With so much of Dead Stars’ latest offering steeped in the bawdy vibe of noise rock this is at least partly true. Yet alongside themes of loneliness, isolation, and a lo-fi sound that is neither tacked on or distracting, Bright Colors stands on its own legs as a continuation of a legacy rather than a copy and paste send-up.
Much of its appeal can be heard in the youthful chorus of the opening track and one of the lead singles, “Calm Punk”: “Maybe it’s all the same/Some things will never change/I hope we can figure out just why/We don’t need to try.” It’s hard to deny that there’s a sense of self-defeat in the construction of this track and those that follow. Hidden beneath fuzzy melodies, tracks like “Stay Here” and “Unpopular” carry a similar burden alongside poignant expressions of rejection. The vigor of the band thus follows a preoccupying weariness that appeals to anyone’s inner teen who has experienced the awkward transition to adolescence.
As much as they might defeat themselves within the narrative of Bright Colors, the album is designed for repeated listens at full volume. Fuzziness aside, the simple combination of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals is addictive. They take care not to undo themselves in their arrangements by means of becoming unbalanced. Too often I’ll plug in something within the vague space of indie pop only to have one part of that same combination drowned out by some fault in the production. In the creation of an album reveling in the waxy nostalgia of youth, Dead Stars have taken the essence of lonerism and turned it into something for everyone to enjoy.