Stars of Track and Field

There seems to be an unwavering trend for polished, non-offensive rock these days. Bands like Coldplay, Keane, Starsailor, Travis and Snow Patrol have gone from being budding Brit rock stars to making decent livings churning out Grey's Anatomy-worthy tunes that embrace the mainstream and aim for even higher, radio-friendly heights. Feel free to label Stars of Track and Field among the genre's newest entry. With Centuries Before Love and War, which was released earlier this year, the Portland, Oregon-based threesome took a stab at the big time by mixing larger-than-life hooks and atmospheric electronics with just the right amount of stereotypical moody lyrics.

It's a winning combination, and nowhere is their quest for the mainstream more apparent than on “Movies of Antarctica,” an irresistible single that practically leaps at the listener; it's the band's catchiest song and definitely the album's standout track (alone worth the admission price). Unfortunately, much of their studio effort falters due to overwrought sentimentality (“Lullaby For a G.I./Don't Close Your Eyes” and “Real Time”) and pop-rock balladry (“With You”). But Stars of Track and Field may realize their ability to potentially attract a more discriminating audience — the lush “Say Hello” and “Exit the Recital” both feature guitars that could prove to be powerful live and hint at what the band could've accomplished if they hadn't tried so hard. Whether they can pull it off live is the real question with an album so slickly produced. If they fall flat, at least there's Joseph Arthur's set to look forward to.

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David A. Cobb
Contact: David A. Cobb