Record Review - 5 December 19 2001

Part of what has always made Austin, Texas' Stars of the Lid interesting is the way they challenge the very concept of what music is. Consisting of guitarists Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie, whose instruments — so effects-laden they're unrecognizable — are looped over the sounds of humming refrigerators and prairie winds. Stars makes every other "pop" group sound samey, unimaginative and trite. Eschewing the easy route — chord progressions, choruses, drum kits — Stars of the Lid's atmospheric washes come pleasantly devoid of pep or angst, leaving not even the percussive attack of a plucked string in their wake.

To the uninitiated (or to those who hate this stuff), applying words like "good" and "bad" to what sounds like nothing but a series of volume swells seems as vague an assessment as the music itself. So is it really possible to make a bad 20-minute drone? Well, yes. And unfortunately, Stars of the Lid has done just that on The Tired Sounds of .... The murmurings on this two-disc set are, in a word, tired.

Whereas Stars' 1995 debut, Gravitational Pull vs. the Desire for an Aquatic Life, mastered the subtle art of lifting you to the stratosphere without appearing to go anywhere, Tired Sounds seems like listless noodling. In the past, the group carefully merged the sounds of shooting stars with layers of ethereal guitar, spacing your brain out in a most agreeable manner. But with Tired Sounds, we get a single instrument dawdling on forever, going nowhere. Wiltzie and McBride attempt to spice up the spiritless monotony by injecting the occasional muted sound effect or soundbite. But, hey, if I wanted hear talking and car doors slamming, I'd buy a CD in the sound effects section.

Wake me when The Tired Sounds of ... is over.??