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Great songs, classic sound from Outerstar

By Outerstar

Jaggo Records: 2001

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This review first appeared in the January 19, 2002 edition of the American Reporter.

One of the best pop albums of 2001 didn't show up on many – if any – "Best of" lists. This, despite as accessible an album since Oasis was tearing up the charts, despite more than a half-dozen songs that easily could have been Top 10 hits, despite some of the most unforgettable songs on a pop album in years.

Ah, the joys of an independent release and iffy distribution.

But business issues aside, the music on Outerstar's debut is utterly enchanting, ultimately endearing. The duo of Nat Schellin and Chris Martin has been together since 1993 gigging around the L.A. area, and the experience shows. Don't judge their self-titled debut as a debut – judge it against any album any band has done at the height of its creativity.

Singer Schellin's voice bears more than a passing resemblance to David Bowie's; the music he writes is vintage '80s art-rock – think Simple Minds, Crowded House, Tears for Fears, Squeeze or, especially, Spandau Ballet. Which is not to suggest that Outerstar sounds like a throwback or some kind of retro outfit – the music is fully contemporary, but with the kind of lush sound and smart songs that hearken to the above artists. The keyboards and guitar by Martin are layered over Schellin's richly harmonized vocals to create as full a sound as you'll find in rock music.

Besides, Outerstar's style isn't nearly as important as the songs – as mentioned, nine of the 11 songs here could easily be Top-40 hits (if the disc jockeys were still allowed to pick their own playlists, that is). "Limousine" is immediately infectious, "Will You Think of Me" is one of the great unrequited love songs in pop history, while "What's With You People" is both political and refreshingly non-partisan. "Every Moment" has a hook-filled melodic theme that will burrow into your head; "Run With Me" is a near-perfect ballad, "Round Down In My Head" is another classic melody and "Don't Be So Surprised" is seamlessly put together. The closing number, "There's a Road," is the kind of quiet but wonderful little tune that Paul McCartney use to be able to turn out every album.

Then there's the best song on the album – and that's saying something on a record with so many classy, classic songs, one that is stronger than most band's greatest hits collections. "You Love it When it Rains" sounds so timeless, so absolutely perfect that even the first time you listen to it, you're sure you've heard it before. The fact that this song wasn't all over the charts is the strongest indictment yet offered against the corporate takeover of radio.

Outerstar is one of those rare pop bands that almost never misses, whose songwriting is interesting enough to hold your attention over repeated listenings, whose music transcends its time. Those few lucky enough to come across Outerstar will still be pulling this CD out and listening to it 20 years down the road, long after the bands now ruling radio are forgotten or plying the nostalgia circuit.