Monday, 12 May 2008

The Stars of Heaven - Speak Slowly (1988)

In the street, lovers move,

rehearse their goodnights.

The usual Two O’Clock Waltz.

The first, and unfortunately, last official album released by this seminal and peerless band, the sublime Dublin group The Stars of Heaven.

And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as The Stars of Heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the Lord thy God.

Deuteronomy 28-62

As you know, we fucking love The Stars here! No, we're not mad amateur astrologists!! Night time is not for staring at the sky in the cold outdoors while drinking hot cocoa from a flask! No, it's for staring at curvy, nasty strippers while drinking Jack Daniels, and doing tequila shots from titties, in the Emergency Room gogo bar!!

So get ready for more gushing than if Maria Ozawa were a Cylon clone, and three Maria Ozawas came over to Dublindog Mansions for the weekend, before annihilating the Human Race!

And so we are very happy indeed to be able to bring you this masterpiece of Irish music, the sublime Speak Slowly from 1988!

We're not usually prone to excessive hyperbole, but this album really is as close to perfect as can reasonably be expected!

The Stars were making music that was way ahead of it's time. Sublime music. We miss them!

Maybe I've gone too far though by setting up a prayer shrine to Stephen Ryan in the corner of my room!!

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

- Leonardo da Vinci

Listening to the tracks again now, so many years later, what's most amazing is how fresh the songs sound! Like they were cut just yesterday!

The Stars were way out of synch with the music herd in Dublin back in the late eighties. They had their own unique blueprint which sounded like nothing else. They were making music that was not of any one time. Music that exists out of time.

With influences ranging from Hank Williams to Woody Guthrie to the Beach Boys to Traditional Irish music to Gram Parsons to Big Star to the Go Betweens to the Velvet Underground to Johnny Thunders to a one-man-band bloke busking on Grafton Street, they were really out of step with the mundanity of the music scene that then existed.

Evocative, beautiful, timeless, unforgettable songs, along with some delicate instrumental pieces (which nobody at all was doing back then),were hallmarks of their vinyl outings.

I remember my first time hearing the Stars of Heaven, all those many years ago. It was 1985, on the Dave Fanning radio show, the only bastion of indie music amongst the morass of Irish radio back then. The music sounded very strange. Totally different to anything I'd heard before. But utterly compelling. Brilliant. Addictive.

In music journalism, groups are always - very lazily - described as sounding like this and like that. With the Stars, this was not possible. They sounded nothing like this. And even less like fucking that!

The Stars' blueprint is very similar to what would, many years later, come to be known as Alt-Country and make buckets of bucks for acts inferior to the Stars (Wilco, Ryan Adams, et al). So too, with their instrumental tracks, they were years ahead of the so-called "post-rock" movement (Tortoise et al).

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This, their only full album proper 'Speak Slowly' was released in April 1988 on Rough Trade.

Produced by Paul Barrett (with 4-5 tracks remixed by Stephen Street), 'Speak Slowly' received widespread critical acclaim.

It contains some classic, timeless songs, with sumptuous melodies underlying beautiful, evocative, and often dark lyrics.

With every other word

you throw me away
and we get by
every other day

Just check out the magnificent 2 O'Clock Waltz, 28, Lights Of Tetouan, Leave as you Came ...... Well, nearly all the tracks, actually!

It didn't sell too many copies though. Predictably so - it wasn't art for the masses - but sickening nevertheless.

In a recent poll by the Irish Times of "Greatest Irish Albums Ever" 'Speak Slowly' was voted as number eighteen.

Only number fucking eighteen? Give me a break morons! Top ten without a doubt!

Here the boys perform "28" on an Irish TV show in 1988.

When you don’t love the one you’re with,

and the one you love is gone,

you’d better smile

or she’ll ask you, “what’s wrong?”

The earlier Stars compilation Rain On The Sea (which we have already posted) and Speak Slowly would later be combined in a great "Blue-Cartoon" release from 2005.

In 1988, as the group had just finished recording some tracks for Mother Records with Mitch Easter as producer, and could finally be potentially on the brink of well deserved commercial success, the boys called it a day.

In 1999, long after the group had split, the collection "Unfinished Dreaming" was released.

This fine album collected their first single, some rare tracks from BBC and RTE radio sessions and best of all, tracks from their unreleased fourth LP tracks recorded for Mother Records with Mitch Easter.
Stan Erraught went on to appear in two great groups, The Sewing Room and The Great Western Squares, who both have released some rather excellent albums.

Stephen Ryan went on to release two more wonderful albums with "The Revanants", the excellent Horse of a Different Colour from 1993 (voted in the top twenty Irish albums ever) and Septober, Nowonder from 1999.

If anyone knows where Stephen now is and what he's doing, drop us a line! He really went of the radar years ago after the Revenants called it a day.

I guess Stephen's the Thomas Pynchon of Irish music!

There is a full and detailed Stars Of Heaven Discography on the great;

Some other good Stars of Heaven resources here;

More Stars of Heaven here on Last Bastion; Stars of Heaven

We're looking for an upload of the 1999 collection"Unfinished Dreaming". If anyone's got it, please drop me a line! I've got it somewhere back there in an attic or in an ex-GF's room, but I don't live in paddyland anymore!

Also if you've got any Revenants, Sewing Room or Great Western Squares stuff, please let us know.


Unfinished Dreaming
Little England
What Else Could you do
Paradise Of Lies
2 O'Clock Waltz
Lights Of Tetouan
Leave As You Came
Every Other Day
Three Kings Day
Ghost Cars


alex said...

i grabbed this record from the op shop i work at for $1 having never heard them in my life, basing the purchase only on the fact that they were rough trade. best vinyl leap of faith ever.

stupid and contagious said...

Yeah Alex, a truly seminal, and sadly truly neglected, group. Timeless music!

And you usually can't go wrong with a rough trade release!


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