[ELECTROPOP ODYSSEY] Amid the cluster of curious cartoon imagery adorning the outer sleeve of Starfucker's long-awaited self-titled debut album stand two astronauts. It's a little misleading. This record is less about space travel than it is about time travel. In the face of increasing expectations culled from MTV exposure and Pitchfork acclaim, the disc is more history lesson than hit factory, combining pop gems like "German Love" and "Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second" that initially attracted local fans (and that still sound bound for commercial success) with newer tracks that capture the melancholy of sole founding member Josh Hodges' former outfit Sexton Blake. The record nostalgically collects songs that, strung together, are a document of Portland's year-plus romance with the band.
Coming out of the gates with pulsating clap-along jam "Florida," the record invites listeners in with the same palpable energy that emanated from countless humid basement parties in the spring of 2007, when the act began building buzz, literally, from the ground up. Lecture samples from Eastern religion philosopher Alan Watts are introduced, bookending the track with seemingly inconsequential lines about wiggles and boxes. But one line stands out: "There's no fixed rule," Watts says, as if addressing the kaleidoscopic styles and emotions of the album itself. Watts' voice appears frequently, positioning him as the Starfucker story's de facto narrator and giving the record added coherence.
Closely following "Florida" comes the gleeful "Myke Pyston," with hand claps and the sound of children at play augmenting its near-indecipherable lyrics. But the tunes that pack the most punch are those that have flourished on Portland hard drives for the past year after stints as free MySpace downloads—most of which appear tweaked in some way. Flaming Lips-channeling first single "German Love" is clipped to radio-friendly length, while former instrumental "Hard Smart Beta" is injected with vocals from Watts.
All Starfucker's synth-based shine can make it easy to forget that the album is essentially the product of a singer-songwriter, but it takes a skilled songsmith like Hodges to make jams that sound carefree and somber at the same time. This project often invokes the melancholy of Sexton Blake (with the new album's "Holly" once belonging to that band), while also satisfying Hodges' (and SB/SF bandmate Ryan Biornstad's) urge to move on. The Buddhist concept of impermanence soaks through this record, and Starfucker will certainly let go of this introductory era, too—having done it justice—in order to free up the band for the pursuit of a new, equally promising path.
SEE IT: Starfucker plays Doug Fir twice Thursday, Sept. 18. At 4:45 pm with Guidance Counselor and Southern Belle (all ages, $7) and 9 pm with Dykeritz and DJ Beyonda (21+, $10).