By: Eric Greenwood
Cashing in on the Interpol bubble with an album so hermetically sealed in '80's alternative goth-lite, The Stills immediately polarized itself amidst a very critical underground. The stylish gloom, which obviously borrowed heavily from both The Cure and The Smiths, managed to resonate beyond mere idolatry, presenting something more imaginative altogether.
To follow up the calculated melancholy of Logic Will Break Your Heart, The Stills have completely abandoned any trace of its roots with an utterly bewildering sophomore album. Drummer Dave Hamelin has ditched the kit to take on lead vocals and guitar, since founding guitarist Greg Paquet departed, and the result is a re-invention so drastic even loyal fans will be forced to question their allegiance.
The title Without Feathers coyly acknowledges the departure from Logic (the cover of which depicted cascading, silvery feathers), but the music is more extreme in its defiance of its predecessor. Aborting Logic's synthetic dreaminess and succinct catchiness in favor of organic tones and a laid-back, overextended '70's vibe, The Stills sound like a completely different band. Logic's primary vocalist, Tim Fletcher, has been relegated to only a handful of tunes here, while Dave Hamelin takes charge of the songwriting, moving the band into a mush of mid-tempo meandering. And his bad habit of dragging syllables awkwardly across too many measures of music is not exactly putting the band's best foot forward.
I've listened to the record repeatedly trying to figure out exactly what went wrong because my brain can't reconcile a misstep of this magnitude. I mean, I understand not wanting to be boxed into a specific sound- especially when the particular sound The Stills made its name with is so hackneyed and overdone. So, a reinvention is perfectly understandable, but the band doesn't even play to its strengths. Where melody, mood, and technique dominated Logic, Without Feathers sinks into a tuneless no man's land. I realize that being able to hum a song isn't the sole basis upon which said song is judged, but when melody was your bread and butter and nothing else steps up to take its place, it becomes the biggest chink in your armor.