"Yeah, I look good from a distance/ But it would take acres of wisdom/ To reconcile all these contradictions," Minor Stars frontman Eric Wallen sings during "Overdrive," his voice suddenly tense after a pins-and-needles guitar solo. Coming out of the break, "Overdrive," the last cut on Minor Stars' debut LP, The Death of the Sun in the Silver Sea, zips through a hairpin turn, jerking from its familiar mid-tempo, mildly stoned rock stomp into a new, anxious and welcome post-punk jitter. It's like Swervedriver swiping a chorus from Fugazi's Red Medicine, and it's perfect.
The Death of the Sun is, indeed, a record about contradictions. As a lyricist, Wallen—who shrouds his voice with a touch of reverb, giving the sharp guitars and forceful drums that much more power beneath—mostly gives fame and commitment a long stare, excoriating both his need to break free of the daily grind and to create but ultimately fretting about what it will do to him. Will he even like life if he makes it big, or will he be like the old man singing for the tourists on the shore, his hair gray and with "his songs ... buried." He's a rock 'n' roll lifer debating the consequences out loud.
The chief contradiction here, though, is one of simultaneous success and failure. What Minor Stars do—heavy riff, thick-rhythm, somewhat psychedelic rock, with a gauze of reverb vocals inlayed against the monolith—they do very well. On "Ready Or Not," Wallen's serrated guitar line and Kuki Kooks' tenacious drumming sit convincingly against astral backing harmonies. "Silver Lining" distends and condenses expertly, fucking with time as the rhythm lifts and sags, renegade guitars slicing through the open space. The guitar passages twist and veer through drug-dug tunnels, and opener "The Death of the Sun" sounds at turns tough enough to be metal and cheery enough to be jangling pop. Moments of convincing drama pepper these 44 minutes of well-built rock.
In the end, though, that strength, or that mastery of one sound, hamstrings Minor Stars. They're so committed to that aesthetic—and as this stuff goes, its mix of thick tones and big hooks is hardly singular—that they can't really leave it alone. "All Your Stars Are Out" means well with its acoustic intro, but it ultimately trudges into more of the same. The instrumental "Black Lake" offers some interesting tones and twists, but it's simply an extension of "Mirror," a Minor Stars prototype if there ever was one. It blurs and blends a bit much, but it at least offers a fine blueprint for continued exploration.