18 Songs, 51 Minutes

TITLE TIME

Ratings and Reviews

4.8 out of 5
4 Ratings

4 Ratings

starlingelectric ,

"sexy danger..."

The LP-format track listing and Kodachrome photos certainly set up the retro vibe on Starling Electric's Bar None debut, Clouded Staircase (not to mention the Blossom Toes font on the cover). If you happen to know what a "Blossom Toes font" is, and you are still reading this, don't stop now, because this record is probably your cup of tea. The CD's look certainly befits the content, with its heady vibe of Zombies-inspired vocal acrobatics, Brian Wilson arrangement know-how, and patchwork bell bottom-pantedness. Clouded Staircase is most decidedly retro all around, but pulling from so many different period sources that the music can be described more precisely as retro-informed, rather than retro for retro's sake. These gentlemen have record collections — big, sprawling, eclectic ones. The kind that any serious '60s-'70s pop aficionado would have accumulated over the course of a lifetime (Brian Wilson, Left Banke, ELO, the Beatles, Love, Gilbert O'Sullivan, solo McCartney, pre-disco Bee Gees) with the added spice of some kitsch favorites, as well as the work of more modern pop purveyors (Jason Falkner, Eggstone, Matthew Sweet, the Posies). A pretty standard lineup for fans of this stuff, though you might also notice that there's a huge stack of Guided by Voices 7"s next to the turntable. Make a note of that, because what Starling Electric has, over every other '70s pop-kissed revival band out there, is guts. Among the pretty and the flowery lurks an element of sexy danger — a real "rock" danger, bordering on punk — that manifests itself in the lyrics as well as the frequent fearless guitar outfreakages. Not a twee note to be found here, no sir. Dewy, yes — but never overtly precious. Just listen to the glorious and garagey din the fellows whip up on "The St. Valentines Day Massacre" and "Black Ghost/Black Girl," two bona fide rockers that manage to deliver the goods in the "pretty" department as well. That's a tough trick to pull off without sounding like a schizophrenic train wreck, and the Starlings make a habit of pulling it off, with aplomb, throughout Clouded Staircase's 18 tracks.

-J. Scott McClintock, allmusic.com

DR.D80 ,

Great Listen

To Flunker, with Love is my favorite but really the whole album in a greate listen. I keep looking for more records from them!

Joseph Sibley ,

Dillon makes the old sorta new.

In 2006, Starling Electric, a quintet from Ann Arbor, Michigan self issued their first album Clouded Staircase. Since then the band has grown in popularity while touring and their album was picked up by Bar None Records for a full scale release. I’m glad record labels like Bar None go out of their way to discover talent that can make a truly great album and not just the single of the week.
Caleb Dillon, who leads the band with his vocals, guides you through a dream of an album. There a catchy hooks. There are organs. Dillon even divided the album into two parts as if the vinyl 33 was still the most important medium on the planet for delivering a piece of psychedelic pop from the 1970’s. Upon first look, you might think this album is a reissue from 1972. The bands website says as a fact, “we specialize in everything truly great about pop music from 1965 to 1977.” There are definite comparisons to every person and band from this era. If you give this album about ten minutes, I’m sure you will find a hundred comparisons.
Dillon seeks to replicate the past by staying in the past. This is a great formula for making good music, but not music that will stand out for generations to come. Clouded Staircase will always be good. Whether it is on the tenth listen or ten years down the road, it will always be enjoyed. The only drawback is the glowing fact that this eighteen track album is too stuck in the past. Unfortunately, it will be looked over this year because it is not unique enough. If Starling Electric seeks to be a great band, the past will have to become the modern in some way.
-Joseph Bridges (Staff Writer-Music-Reviewer.com)

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