David Browne
January 19, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Silence Is Easy

Current Status
In Season

We gave it a B+

If one has a thirst for Coldplay-style passion over restraint and subtlety, then Starsailor is your cup of Earl Grey. Frontman and songwriter James Walsh’s lack of an operatic falsetto doesn’t stop him from going over the top, vocally or emotionally; on the band’s rugged 2002 debut, ”Love Is Here,” he reveled in his impassioned yelp and a brooding restlessness. Silence Is Easy, the follow-up, is the band’s crack at maturity. Now a father, Walsh sings a simple yet mesmerizing testament to devotion, ”Fidelity,” and the arrangements are more expansive than those of the debut. Gale-force strings, wah-wahing guitars, and Latin percussion swoop in, adding to Walsh’s grippingly overheated performances; on the discofied ”Four to the Floor,” Starsailor sound as if they’re playing at a London version of Studio 54. Ironically, the two tracks produced by Phil Spector — the chugging-locomotive title song and the wispier ”White Dove” — are relatively subdued, quite unlike the orchestrated pomp one expects from the legally embroiled studio master (they’re less Walls of Sound than fences).

Far from a perfect next step, ”Silence” suffers from some slight songs; growth also means more bare ballads, which isn’t the band’s strength. As with all post-Coldplay Britpop, enraptured, full-throttle melodrama suits them better.

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