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Retrospective Reviews: Stars' 'In Our Bedroom After The War'

The album that tells you that life is beautiful, so fall in love and end the war.

Stars were and are, aside from maybe The National, the most elegant adult drunks of the aughts' indie generation. Their paeans to growing old disgracefully pour like an eternally uncorked bottle of sherry over your rich uncle's sterling speaker system. And for real y'all, their catalog is beautiful and tasteful and over-the-top all at once, perfect for wincing teenagers and divorce survivors in the same bound.


In Our Bedroom After The War came off the of the heels of the wildly-successful Set Yourself On Fire, a record that made them regional rock stars in Canada (remember the video for "Your Ex-Lover is Dead" getting text-requested on PunchMuch all the time?) and helped spin the legend of Toronto's booming "alternative" scene into Seattle territory as part of the Broken Social Scene/Arts & Crafts militia.

The album came at a crux in indie rock's ideals; Arcade Fire had released Neon Bible some months prior, a jangled post-modern Americana opus full of "ideals" and outrage, whereas Vampire Weekend's debutant-ish debut came next, celebrating the virtues of upper class living with a grammarian's vocabulary. In Our Bedroom fell somewhere in the middle, with all the pomp and poise of a post-graduate without a political cause. But it wasn't class they were fighting over, no, it was romance and the sexes, and they wanted the war to end.

The balance between frontman Torquil Campbell's histrionics and Amy Milan's resignations have been the winning formula Stars have built their legacy on, and this record was no different. Campbell's scene-setters like the call-to-arms "Take Me to the Riot" or the funk-infused "Ghost of Geneva Heights" were theatrical meat, where Amy brought "My Favourite Book" and "Window Bird" to the table, more plaintive and subtle and lyrically efficient. Together, they both nailed melodrama to a tee, like on middle-piece "Personal," where a Craigslist date goes awry over unmet physical expectations. Ho baby, the heartstrings.

The title track comes last, and begs the question, who won? The heartbreakers or the heartachers? Maybe both, maybe neither. Campbell paints a world where whatever happens to the romantic inside of you, it sort of doesn't matter. "Wake up," he says, "Say good morning to / that sleepy person lying next to you / If there's no one there, then there's no one there / But at least the war is over."

Today pop and indie rock is less overtly-political than it ever has been, but at the same time, is more progressively a political agent than any high priest or president can hope to be. Pop culture is king, and they're telling us to fuck who you want and to get fucked up and to break hearts and celebrate in the face of global calamity. "Get Lucky." "Happy." "I Don't Care." It's like, fuck the world man, just fall in love and look at how beautiful this shitty place is. Stars knew it, and they asked that in a world without war, how wonderful would it be if love was the only bullshit we had to put up with? Real, true life, they suggest, starts In Our Bedroom After the War and they scream it over a crumbling, fumbling symphonic mess. Break out the champagne, y'all. "The war is over, and we are beginning."

Ivan Racyzcki is a writer living in Toronto. He's on Twitter.