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1 June 2010

Tim Buckley - 'Starsailor' (Straight)

His curls are cropped a bit but his voice, inner and outer, is more wild than ever. This is Starsailor, a record where all the planets are in alignment. I know this is considered a groundbreaking avant-garde work, but it's not as insane as it's reputation might lead you to believe. This flips the inside/outside dynamic of Lorca somewhat, with 'Starsailor' (the titular track) providing the furthest foray into drone echo on side 2, and side one having rather "straight" songs that almost perfectly assimilate Buckley's ideas. Overall, Lorca's side one experimentation is the guiding light, but there's a remarkable concision to the way these songs are executed. Albumwide, nothing is longer than 5 and a half minutes, and the rhythmic freedom and meandering tearducts are largely controlled. And the songs are great. In retrospect, his debut album now feels like songs written for a less powerful voice. As Buckley grows into himself, his songwriting steps up to support, like a really fancy office chair that doesn't neglect the lumbars. 'Jungle Fire' synthesizes some of Happy Sad's 'Gypsy Woman' with side two of Lorca, but also allows Buckley to experiment with strange chord changes and voicings. 'Come Here Woman' is a great opener, setting a dark tone but then changing direction whenever it gets easy. 'Monterey' is a smashing riff-driven rocker where Buckley's pushing things with his voice. 'Moulin Rouge' is Buckley's foray into Kevin Ayers territory, with a village band feel carried by Mothers of Invention member Buck Gardner. Because I heard this record a generation or two after it was made, it's sometimes difficult for me to place what was an influence and what has been influenced by, follow? Though of course I can hear bits of Annette Peacock, US Maple, etc, it's really a singular work. Though who's to say that 'Starsailor''s layered fades aren't somewhat attributable to a healthy serving of Otto Luening? Of course we can't leave without talking about 'Song to the Siren', which by this point I should be tired of because of a million teeny mixtapes and This Mortal Coil's overblown (or brilliant, depending on my mood) treatment. But in reality, this is one of the most remarkably beautiful 3 minutes and 20 seconds ever put to wax, combining fragility, distance, depth, spookyness, energy and occlusion into something absolutely perfect. It is inspiring and devastating; it justifies the existence of the chorus effect; it is a raft from which I hope to never wash ashore, because with resolution comes complacency.

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