Somewhere in the mid-80s the definition of “pop” as a musical genre underwent an interesting metamorphoses, facilitated mostly by a scraggly, bookish group of kids who enjoyed creating music heavy in hooks and light in labored professionalism.
What’s in a name?
Somewhere in the mid-80s the definition of “pop” as a musical genre underwent an interesting metamorphoses, facilitated mostly by a scraggly, bookish group of kids who enjoyed creating music heavy in hooks and light in labored professionalism. This aesthetic eventually became known to the world as “indie pop,” and its practitioners spent the good part of a decade methodically distilling popular music down to its most primal elements.
Their results were mixed, but by the turn of the century they had managed to redefine “pop” from a term that referred exclusively to radio-ready victims of overproduction into a phrase that encompassed any music that aimed a direct assault at the pleasure centers of the brain.
Thankfully, this definition has stuck-it allows me to describe the music of Portland songwriter Josh Hodges’s latest project, Starfucker, as pop while still paying heed to the intelligence and creativity with which he goes about his craft.
Starfucker is pop in the truest sense of the word, for it pushes at the borders of convention while still retaining the giddy energy of a musician who, according to Hodges, “just wanted to make music that was fun to play and fun to watch.” Accompanied by an army of loop pedals, he juxtaposes electronic beeps and boops on top of sugar-sweet hooks and an ever-increasing assortment of instruments. His music exudes perfectly the enjoyment that was put into its creation.
Live shows display Hodges bounding back and forth between keyboards, drum sets, guitars and the occasional theremin to create energy that is rarely found in music so heavily based on electronics. This contagious enthusiasm is precisely what sets Starfucker apart from most bands laboring under the banner of pop or dance music. In creating Starfucker, Hodges set out to make music that “people can dance to, then also listen to later,” and apparently he has succeeded by virtue of his energy and sparse, finely toned songwriting.
Hodges has spent a large part of his time for the last several years creating well-polished musical gems for the general benefit of the Portland music community under various different guises. Until recently he was the driving force behind Sexton Blake, a band with a much more conventional voice and name, than his current project.
The darker musings of Sexton Blake were short-lived however, and Hodges abandoned the project in favor of Starfucker under the perfectly logical reasoning that he was “really, really, really bored.” Not one to sit complacent in his boredom, Hodges finished up his last album with Sexton Blake, a surprisingly entertaining collection of covers, and set about defining a new style starting with a moniker that was as much a “fuck you” to the self importance of his contemporaries as it was an indicator of the new direction his work was to follow.
Starfucker’s material was conceived by “messing around” in Hodges’s home studio, a songwriting process that he has long relied on. The relative simplicity of Starfucker’s music is deceptive, for it hides the skilled hand with which Hodges sets about his arrangements. Instead of using his unlimited studio time to over inflate his songs with excessive tracks and instrumentation, he polishes his works down to their exact necessary components. Though you wouldn’t initially associate the word poise with a band called Starfucker-it is exactly this quality that has garnered Hodges so much attention.
Word of Starfucker’s enjoyable dance pop has disseminated through the blog-o-sphere over the summer as Hodges has played a series of house and club shows, culminating with last week’s performance at Musicfest Northwest. The momentum his current project has gained is creating previously unavailable opportunities for Hodges, such as a possible string of performances in mid-October at New York’s CMJ music festival. Before departing though, Starfucker will be playing at least two more Portland gigs on Oct. 6 and 7. The show on the 7th is at Valentine’s and the 6th finds Starfucker playing a house show with “every fucking band in Portland.” More info, along with some excellent MP3s, can be found at www.myspace.com/starfuckerss.