Showstar are an NME band - a post-Libertines
mixture of jaunty, lazy juvenility. They are at their most
pleasing when harsh guitars combine with upbeat keys to propel
their impressive melodies. In these days when rehab counts
for more than reverb, Showstar should be stars. The only reason
they have not yet been tossed onto the cover of said weekly
publication is their passports. Instead of dropping into the
ocean of UK bands such as Maximo Park, Rakes, Futureheads,
Kaisers, and Arctics; Showstar pop up in Belgium of all places!
I initially thought this album was self-titled, but I now understand it to be called <.> (literally pronounced "dot") On <.>, the francophone Showstar deliver each of their ten short songs in the English language. You have to admire writers operating outside their mother tongue and for Showstar in particular it amounts to something of a gamble. In terms of ambition, it proves that the band recognize that their ultimate destination should be cross-channel. Yet it does risk alienating a percentage of Showstar's potential Belgian market as well as harming their chances of breaking in France, which is a fairly big deal for bands in their position. Kudos then for this decision!
I'm not mad on opener Mad On Your Sister, a jaunty pub-rock stomp that
could be any of the above mentioned bands. Thing improve immeasurably during
and after Superlover, as keyboards come to the fore and Showstar seem
less embarrassed about their melodic hooks. The albums first lovely surprise
hits us in the form of Day By Day. This is pure Boo Radleys - a slice
of exquisite Mersey pop that would rank alongside Martin Carr's best melodic
offerings (e.g., Barney and Me). Things even shimmer a little on Stereo
Songs recalling Lightning Seeds or Doves (Words) before wow moment
No2, Special Gun. How good is this? Without getting carried away I'm
tempted to use words such as "Fanclub" and "Teenage" in combination with "Boys" and "Beach".
I probably shouldn't, but Special Gun is ace, so shoot me.
Of the rest, The Monster = You and Dan are lovely, but again very Boo Radleys. Slow and Paper Tigers explore the discordant nu wave of Bloc Party, while Get Drunk is embarrassingly poor. I'm sorry to say this track serves only to highlight the band's impoverished lyrics. While elsewhere this hardly seems to matter, on a tune as ropey as this, the equally lightweight content really jars.
The Belgian music scene is full of "stars" at present. Showstar, Novastar
(who should be massive), and Hollywood Porn Stars all hail from the land of
beer and chocolate and, like their country, all with much more than meets the
eye. But will the real Showstar please stand up? If they're serious about being
the stars of the latest UK show, then they ought to take some drugs and get
photographed falling over in the street with some young model. I probably can't
help them. However if, as I'd hope, they want to follow The Boo Radleys ambitious
pop template, the next steps they take must be giant.