Turn Off The Stars by Turn Off The Stars (Review)

It seems like every song is a big, swaggering ballad full of crashing drums and epic guitars that wears its heart on its sleeve.
Turn Off The Stars

The music on Toronto-based Turn Off The Stars’ self-titled release bears the mark of many admirable influences. Album opener “I Wasn’t Ready” tears out of the gates on a explosive rhythms and chiming guitars aplenty, while Mike Walker’s powerful, earnest voice strives to punch through the atmosphere and break free from the instruments surrounding him: you can hear influences of Joshua Tree-era U2, The Cure, some textures à la Radiohead, and perhaps even a twinge of Catherine Wheel-esque shoegaze here and there.

“Please” picks up right where “I Wasn’t Ready,” and maybe even ups the song a notch, the rhythms courtesy of Jake Palahnuk and Max Kennedy propelling the song to even greater insistency, while Andrew Walker’s guitars shimmer and explode all around, doing their best classic Edge impression.

Unfortunately, the album never ever transcends the band’s influences, and the result is something of a double-edged sword. There’s rarely a weak moment on the disc — each song is obviously the product of the band pouring their hearts and souls into each and every second — but at the same time, it’s almost never anything but serviceable and adequate.

And it seems to get even moreso as the album continues, as Mike Walker’s voice wanders into falsetto territory on an ever-increasing basis with each passing song, giving the band an unfortunate Coldplay-esque cast. And like Coldplay’s music, one would certainly never accuse Turn Off The Star’s music of being cold and unemotional. But neither could you accuse it of ever being subtle. It seems like every song is a big, swaggering ballad full of crashing drums and epic guitars that wears its heart on its sleeve, bares it soul, and beats its chest.

Which would be fine, if the band had lyrics to match such a musical posture. Lyrics such as “Wait, what a beautiful place/Sun breaking through to my face/My face, my face/Please, get me off of my knees/I’m just begging you please” (“Please”) come off as rather conventional, sometimes even when sung with heart-rending emotion.

Discs like Turn Off The Stars are perhaps some of the hardest to write about, because there’s nothing really wrong with them, per se. They do everything right, connect all the dots, color in the lines, and show all the right influences. Then again, that’s exactly what’s wrong with them: everything seems to be exactly where it needs to be, and such obvious, upfront, and expected perfection doesn’t necessary make for a compelling, invigorating listen. Never once during the disc did I get a shiver down my spine, that chill that lets you know the band is truly onto something, that all of the influences and whatnot have melded into something truly new and unique.

All that being said, the band does seem to be heading in the right direction. I mean, the thunderous opening moments of “I Wasn’t Ready,” “Please,” and “If Only” are exciting in their own right, and the tortured, wailing guitar that erupts halfway through “Getaway” contains more drama than much of the rest of the album combined.

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