What is it that makes all these U.K. bands think they have something to say? Like their contemporaries, the members of Starsailor play a very British style of modern rock: simple, monotonous, jangly minor-chord rhythms, reaching-for-glory choruses, lyrics full of cold, quiet yearning, the occasional falsetto, and vague pontifications on the state of the union, or worse, the soul.
Fortunately, Starsailor’s James Walsh seems wary of the sogginess that comes with all the Snow Patrols, and for his band’s third album, On the Outside, he lets his voice, robust with an appealing ache and scratch, take the lead. It doesn’t hide the often-mediocre lyrics — check “Do you see/ What I see?/ A plastic society/ Won’t bring us/ To our knees” (from “Get Out While You Can”) — and in “Faith Hope Love” it underlines the positively terrible rally-cry chorus. But Walsh’s voice, especially on opener “In the Crossfire” and on the folksy “Jeremiah,” still remains an engaging asset.
The members of Starsailor have the sense to recognize their strengths, and On the Outside is by no means a poor album. But by merely keeping up, they don’t do much to separate themselves from the flock of young bands crossing the Atlantic — again and again.