Starsailor: On The Outside

A Starsailor album lots of people will like… shame the band don’t

Starsailor 2005
It’s telling that the third Starsailor album opens with the words, “I don’t see myself when I look in the mirror/I see who I should be”. Telling because, rather than hearing the songs they’d like to be doing, we suspect that when the band play this CD, they hear the tracks which are liable to market well. Just three albums in, and James Walsh and co have got a sound that they could probably win a patent application for – one which they deliver effortlessly and in polished fashion. Trouble is, if you over-polish something, you remove any of the bits liable to snag the wary, and this is a collection totally free of hooks. There’s no ‘Lullaby’ or ‘Silence Is Easy’ here – and although Starsailor still sound nimble and hungry and eager, ‘On The Outside’ still feels like they’ve made a compromise too far, settling for finding space in Christmas stockings alongside those unthreatening Home Counties boys.

Occasionally, there are glints of something darker. ‘I Don’t Know’, for example, offers the woozy über-Lancastrianism of Gomez playing a Verve song. And there’s some light experimentation with harmonising that threatens, briefly, to make a couple of tracks worth taking the phone off the hook and opening a bottle of wine for. All too soon, though, they’re making it like the last album again. They’re a confident band, but the tragedy is they’re at the top of someone else’s game. This’ll do for the faithful, but let’s hope next time they sound like themselves. Simon Hayes Budgen
7 / 10

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