Review: Darkstar Safari – ‘Darkstar Safari’

Put your hands up if you remember the early nineties. Just about a decade ago, you couldn’t get away from chirpy indie bands: Blur, Elastica, Pulp, Sleeper, Echobelly and bucket loads more besides.

Well, if you liked them, then you might also like Darkstar Safari. No. Not Darkstar, the goth tinged 80s throwbacks. This is Darkstar Safari and they are slightly easier on the eardrums, and no less entertaining as a result.

Darkstar Safari’s eponymous EP has just one thing on its mind. Sleep. Sleep may well be a pleasant thing, beloved of man and blessed, but in Darkstar Safari’s case, they’re hardly getting any of it. Most of their lyrics feature lines about needing sleep, particularly the first track: the imaginatively titled “Can’t Sleep”.

It has a rolling riff pattern, probably last heard on the Blur song “Bang”, accompanying the smooth-as-a-liqueur voice of Cat Gilmore. She sings of having a “list of things to do” that is clogging her mind up so that she can’t, well, sleep. It’s a well formed, busy little song that keeps you interested all the way through. An anthem for insomniacs everywhere.

Next up comes “Beautiful Day”. Keen as ever on their rolling riffs, Darkstar Safari start up with an intro that could almost be Radiohead. Over the top of this, Cat Gilmore sings a song of desperation, begging for forgiveness.

She feels ashamed. She feels guilty of naivety (another sleep reference appears with the line “I used to dream in black and white/now my fantasies are grey”) and she’s desperate for a return to a “beautiful day”, which, in its own way, is quite beautiful itself.

“All my own Work” sees Tony Bird take the microphone, although not as strong a singer as Cat, he can still hold a good tune. Here he is singing about, among other things, sleep.

This is, perhaps the weakest of the songs on the EP, but it still boasts much to talk about. A sprawling guitar solo of Brian May proportions (if not actually in the style of May himself), takes over the last few moments of the song before Bird almost shrieks out “Who am I today?”

The final song, “The Count of Monte Cristo” sees Cat Gilmore waking up (not that she’s had much sleep so far), facing a new day with a man she feels does not deserve her. Again, the rolling “Bang” style riff rolls on incessantly underneath the silky lyrics. It’s a dreamy song, with just a hint of foreboding nightmare to it (“Till the daylight drags me down right down beneath my skin”).

All in all, Darkstar Safari have produced a collection of highly listenable tunes, and a talented voice in the form of Cat Gilmore. Let’s just hope that they get a decent night’s kip soon.

First published 28 May 2003 by www.bbc.co.uk/gloucestershire on this link

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