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MTV Campus Invasion Tour, with Starsailor, Nickelback, Default, and Injected. Friday, April 12, at John Carroll University.


Starsailor may be guilty of nothing more than timing its arrival to coincide with the likes of Coldplay and Travis, two comparably sensitive and folk-inclined rock outfits with whom it has been lumped in reviews. The band may endear itself to American ears by bowing to the flawed greatness that was Tim Buckley in naming itself after one of the ambitious folkie's more experimental albums. Starsailor even goes so far as to use the same typeface for its fuzzy '70s cover art as was used on Buckley's 1970 album.

But comparisons, superficial or complex, reveal only so much. The music has to stand or fall on its own merits, and that's where Starsailor outshines the competition. Guitarist and vocalist James Walsh has a clear, high voice that sparkles like the voice of Travis's Fran Healy and carries emotion like that of Radiohead's Thom Yorke; it goes a long way toward selling powerful lines like "You have your daddy's eyes, and daddy was an alcoholic" ("Alcoholic") or "I've got nothing left, my life is good, my love's a mess" ("She Just Wept").

There is a gentle pull in every song on Starsailor's fine debut, Love Is Here. Sometimes it's between a subtle device like the swirling arrangement in "Talk Her Down" and the inherent positive power of "Good Souls." Sometimes it's in the tension between Walsh's electric and acoustic presentations. And sometimes it's in keyboardist Barry Westhead's choice of beefy organ fills, as opposed to his delicate piano accompaniments.

Starsailor has managed to make an album of surging elegance that draws the listener in without ever making a spectacle of itself. The word is that it manages that same balance onstage.

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