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Stars of Aviation @ The Boatrace, Cambridge

(9th November 2001)

I find myself enjoying Dead Or Alive on the inter-band tape. Am I getting too old for this lark? Perhaps I should just stay in on Friday nights (let's be honest, I usually do anyway) and listen to an album bought the previous Saturday at Woolworths (but I haven't stooped that low, yet). A compilation, probably, something familiar, something at least 10 years old, something shit but with that look-back buzz. It's appealing, and the thought had already occurred to me when, after getting past the seemingly clairvoyant chap on the door "Alright mate, I'm on the Stars' guestlist, I'm .." "Yeah, OK." "But .." "That's OK, I know who you are." "But .." "I don't know how, I just know you but I nearly didn't recognise you in that hat." I was greeted by a note-perfect Nirvana cover. Call me a spoilsport grumpy old tosser but I just don't see the point. Especially not from Nevermind. If it's got to be a Nirvana cover, then why not something from Bleach served up raw and greasy rather than a track even stone-deaf plankton from the deepest recesses of the frozen oceans on Pluto have heard at least once too many times? OK, I'm a spoilsport grumpy old tosser and, yes, I'm also the miserable bastard who'll walk out of a covers set by some well-meaning, note-perfect amateurs in the corner of the pub rather than be subjected to lukewarm retreads of songs that I love. Or even songs that I barely know. That's why I was thinking I should stay in on Fridays even before I heard the less-than dulcet tones of Pete Burns. And that's probably why I can't even remember who the support were.

The radio alarm clock perched on the end of the keyboard shows 12:01 when the Stars of Aviation begin. This is symptomatic. Iron Maiden told us that the time to rock is two minutes to midnight. And they were right. Rock music is all about the build up, the foreplay, the expectation, the clenching of anticipation, the wanting, the wanting, the wanting. Two minutes to midnight is the best time, it's right on the apogee of fulfilment, but it's not quite there yet. Midnight, on the other hand, is shit. It's all over then. It's a let-down. It's when the lovin' spoonful, the 10cc, becomes the damp patch and infinitely less attractive. It's the point at which desire fades and the urge to roll over and sleep takes control. At one minute past midnight, nobody is interested.

Well, most people aren't interested. For those of us in the know, the post-action action is the best action. It lasts longer and it's all about sensuality and pleasure the lover with a shot load is a much more considerate animal than the horny bastard with an irresistible urge to unburden himself. Which brings us to the Stars of Aviation. Less post-rock, more post-coital, theirs is the quiet glow of enhanced sensation and gentle lovemaking, but also of reflection and insomniac self-evaluation. Yes, it was easy to say you loved her when the words were an abracadabra, but you know you didn't mean it. You know that you won't stay with her, you're worthless, you're going nowhere, you're just keeping up a front and you're having to work harder and harder every day to maintain it. Greatest Disappointment of the Year, the title track from their only release to date, is the peak of the set. Fuelled by the helpless agony of self-confidence collapse, it burns bright and long, surging and ebbing for the maximum gratification of all concerned.

Except most people prefer the instant hit, and their constant chattering and shrieking from the bar starts to get under the Stars' skin. A hurried discussion results in the band thrashing through an old song whose only redeeming feature is that it is fast and so grabs the audience interest for a couple of minutes. They are clearly disgusted with themselves ("we stopped playing that one months ago, I don't know why we're playing it again," "you're all so dull is that a pot and kettle situation?") but persevere with a couple of beautiful new songs anyway. Both swirl and slowly coalesce like Mercury Rev on ice. The Stars of Aviation make beautiful music and if tonight's one-night stand doesn't appreciate it, well, there's plenty more birds in the air.

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