Elevate Difference


I don't dance. At least not well. So an evening of bopping or grinding or shaking (or whatever the kids are into these days) isn't my scene. But that's no excuse to excise whole genres from my potential music library, and more electronic acts are creeping in by the day. Some of this music is too overwrought and pretentious for my taste, but from a group like Starfucker, which doesn't take themselves too seriously, the music can be gosh darn fun.

The three-man group, based in Portland, Oregon, is comprised of Josh Hodges, Ryan Bjornstad, and Shawn Glassford. Hodges' career before forming Starfucker included an album of '80s covers. That background which shows itself here in a nifty cover of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," as well as in his songwriting on the seven other tracks, each an original composition. The first, aptly titled "Medicine," gives the listener an immediate dose of what Starfucker is all about: catchy hook, techno beats, and interesting samples. Tune out if you like and bob along without a thought, or tune in and muse about the androgynous vocals or the retro samples of a lecture expounding on the meanings of "philosophy" that weaves in and out of the music.

Techno pop is implicitly optimistic, celebrating better living through science, robots, and outer space. Even though I did not grow up on the genre, a childhood of Star Wars and video games prepped my ear to enjoy it. The synthesized music here is repetitive, like a video game's soundtrack, but never boring. The second track, "Boy Toy," could have been written and performed by a pining R2D2 or Mega Man. Again, it is instantly catchy, but more aggressively techno than the first song, utilizing a full range of beeps and whistles. The following "Dance Face 2000" continues in that direction with computerized vocals that teasingly sound almost like discernible human speech, but not quite. Track 5, "Biggie Smalls," stands out by using oriental scales behind a synthesized organ.

All of Starfucker's songs feel immediately familiar, so a song we are familiar with can hoodwink us. The sixth track brings us to the aforementioned cover of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." A listener who hadn't studied the title list beforehand might think it was another original composition until the recognizable lyrics kick in. If we'd been lulled by the album's listenability thus far, suddenly we are paying attention. Well-known lyrics like, "Oh Daddy dear, you know you're still number one," in a male voice are refreshing to both ear and mind, coyly forcing the listener to consider the ambiguity of gender. It seems that both girls and boys like to have fun.

Like Starfucker's first album, Jupiter was recorded with Dylan Magierek. There is nothing "indie" about the flawless production. My only complaint is that the album is too short.

Written by: Charlotte Malerich, July 17th 2009