When vocalist Joshua Hodges was asked in an interview about his band’s name, he quipped that he was simply curious to see ‘how far we could get with a stupid name like Starfucker.’ Pretty far, it seems. After a promising but uneven eponymous debut in 2008, the Portland synthpop quartet’s live shows have built up a loyal following (despite a confusing number of name changes away from and eventually back to the notorious ‘Starf**ker’), and the group have since signed with Polyvinyl for their second full-length, Reptilians. A frenzied keyboard-inflected electropop, Starf**ker’s sound is of course comparable to MGMT or Passion Pit, but with a taste for the earworm over the anthem, and a chiptune tone of synths reminiscent of say, Crystal Castles. Singles dropped for Reptilians rightly generated early excitement for their third effort: the towering ‘Julius’ was wrapped in warm, bubbling synths, and the keyboard-led chorus of the brisk and relentless ‘Bury Us Alive’ proved irresistible. Indeed, the full record features an altogether tighter and more confident songcraft.
Despite the unusual lyrical subject of death – for a pop album, at least – the tracks are fast-paced, buoyant and often unnaturally catchy. But unfortunately the effort is inconsistent, and there is little to offer beyond the excellent singles and a few standouts (the breakneck, captivating ‘Mystery Cloud’, the drenched wall-of-sound of ‘Mona Vegas’, the dancefloor groove of ‘Quality Time’). Sonically, the rest of the album is every bit as warm and ebullient as its standout tracks, but strangely lacking the emotion (or even the adequate riff) to engage the listener. The hazy ‘The White of Noon’ is pleasant enough but drags on, while ‘Millions’ undermines a wonderful bass riff with aloof vocals and grating, badly-mixed synths. While the liberal sampling of English guru Alan Watts in Reptilians underlines the record’s somewhat confused nature, with the summer fast approaching it is surely still a welcome release.