Ben Gunstone
The Lost Revue

Costar 'Keep It Light'
Alternative rockers Costar originated in Bergen, Norway, where lead vocalist and wannabe cowboy, Brighton Gay grew up and formed a band with local musicians Boy Volvo and Boris Flashback. A move to London and one or two line-up changes later, the places of the latter two members have been taken by guitarist Jonny Oksen Bull, drummer Reno Nevada and bassist Dusty Domino. Following the 2003 EP, Brothers In Crime, this album announces their arrival on the international scene in polished and confident style. Although the band maintain that it combines 'Americana with electronica', this could not be described, strictly or otherwise, as a country album. This makes the visual claims of the cover all the more extraordinary, laden as it is with images of stetsons, horses, wagons, ropes, spurs and rifles - not to mention the porcupine which stares out from the CD itself. But Costar can be more than forgiven this peculiar indulgence on listening to what proves to be a collection of characterful, accomplished and infectious songs. All are Brighton Gay originals and some are the band's highlights from Brothers In Crime.
'Yeah Right' kicks things off and is strong and punchy, with sunny harmonies and just a hint of the ethereal quality which becomes more prominent later. The following 'Where You Go', is distinctly siky in comparison, still uptempo but with less immediate pop appeal, and melodically is a little ungainly. But no matter, when just around the corner we have 'Special', a song which carries itself along with a truly irresistible momentum. The weighty drums create hypnotic, driving rhythms, until around the two-minute mark those light, airy harmonies from 'Yeah Right' come back and the whole track is lifted up to another level. The repeated line, 'This is not a broken promise/ This is not a lie,' comes to the foreground during a stripped-down section, but the return and fadeout of the original heavy rhythm in the closing seconds is perfectly judged.
Things continue in a similar vein for a while until we reach the arresting and simple 'Still I'm Here'. From the guitar opening until the fabulous vocal distortion towards the end, everything suddenly becomes more economical here and all the better for it. This track also represents one of the few instances of any real and successfully conveyed emotion on 'Keep It Light', which inevitably makes it more satisfying to listen to. 'Peaking' suffers from being placed directly afterwards and consequently sounds rather weak and watery, the breathy harmonies appearing contrived for the first time.
'Falling At My Feet' is agreeably pacy while 'Downward Spiral' is undistinguished, and the sweet delicate vocals on 'A Little Help' appears worlds away from 'If I Can Change Your Mind', which breezes across old ground without making an awful lot of impact. In short, Costar have hit upon a tricky, fragile musical formula; the energy and strident enthusiasm of their style mean that it's easy to push things too far for too long. But when they get it right - and this album contains quite a few of these moments - they are capable of making distinctive, fresh and invigorating music.

(3/5) Maverick Magazine

Costar 'Keep It Light'
Alright, this is pretty peachy. The off is “Yeah Right” and for those of you
lying awake at nights wrestling with the ancient riddle; “Where do Dawn Of
The Replicants and nasty 60’s jangle-thrash meet?” will be able to be say
and play “Yeah Right” dance the answer and, eventually, get some kip.
Everything on this is soooo slick, such a seamless, morph n meld between
pop, metal, sugar, bile, melody and sleazy mayhem, that you’ll wonder why
you ever needed those other records. There are, because daft they ain’t,
another eleven tracks on this set, but the stall set out on “Yeah Right”
provides a reliable guide, they’re screwing with the entire 60’s
brit-pop-rock cannon and that includes the scary, less well known bits as
well, check “Special”, far more strange Syd than poppy Floyd. What
elevates Costar from the huge chasing pack of two-toned, polo neck posing
revisionists is the ruthless way they’ve dissected, destroyed the main
influences and rebuilt ‘em in tougher, 21st century ways, we have the
technology and all that, but technology and a sonic honesty about your
influences aren’t, in themselves, anywhere near enough. Costar are
aggressive and inventive. Production is absolutely ace, check the jammed,
but clean power-ballad “4 Days”, every piano strike audible in a well
swirled mix, very sharp.

Costar 'Keep It Light'
The press blurb for this says that the CoStar's lead singer, the excellently named Brighton Gay (the bassist is the equally impressive Dusty Domino), was brought up on the mighty sounds of Black Sabbath and the unfettered genius of Mark Bolan. With an unholy alliance of influences like that, a demonically heady concoction is expected, but alas this is no “20th Century Paranoid Boy”. What you get instead is pretty much porridge all the way with the occasional aromatic scrap: a lumpy kind of XFM daytime friendly stew that leaves you craving something more nutritious. That’s not to imply CoStar wont achieve a modicum of success, in today’s harsh climate people seem to be drawn to a certain type of safe plod rock, just look at XFM’s complicity in the crime of bringing Keane to our attention, a band with all the charm of a Financial Times index column. That said, CoStar are accomplished musicians, the songs have good structure, the singer has on occasion an engaging voice and there’s an obvious level of creativity gone into their image, but ultimately they don’t amount to the sum of their parts. The opening two songs pass you by in hazy blur, leaving you in a grasping amnesiac state wondering where the time went. The third track, “Special” is more interesting and mildly surprising after the opening, a swampy groove is driven along with voodoo drums and horizontal vocals. It almost succeeds until you realize its similarity to Ian Brown’s recent output.

The rest is commonplace rock fodder intercut with the odd appealing, breathy female backing vocal and in places sounding suspiciously like the overrated Foo Fighters. The LP signs off with a song called “Dying of Boredom”, and with a gift title like that its best that I dont comment.

The arch Alchemist Brian Eno once said that he knew it was time to quit Roxy Music when one night during a gig he started to wonder how on earth he was going to get his catsuit dry cleaned for the following night's performance. I experienced a similar thought process here, about half way through I started to think, “umm that wall could do with a lick of paint”. The point being that pop music or any music for that matter should take you out of the mundane and elevate you to a place of sublimity, but when it just leaves you contemplating the mundane something is seriously askew.


Costar 'Keep It Light'
Norwegian singer-songwriter Brighton Gay (!) grew up with dreams of stetsons and branding irons, but his relocation to London, accompanied by like-minded Bergen musicians, results in a more edgy, electronic sound that will appeal to lovers of Royksopp, Kings Of Convenience and the wee Magnet fella.

Americana-inspired in places, Falling At My Feet and Yeah Right being aimed straight at daytime radio, the bivouacs of A Little Help and Lee have bigger soundscapes to keep them vivid.  In fact, constant exposure to Costar suggests they might join their brethren soon.  At least this lot are the source, rather than the sample.

Record Collector

Costar 'Keep It Light'
FLICKING through the booklet that accompanies this debut album from London-based Norwegians Costar, you could be forgiven for expecting a fairly trivial listening experience. Cheeky nicknames, cowboy personas and mocked-up ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ posters do not necessarily foretell an album of great substance. But slot Keep It Light into your CD player and it’s a very different story.

Finally with us after several postponements, Keep the Light presents a decidedly bleak musical landscape awash with Johnny ‘Oksen’ Bull’s sublimely melancholic guitar playing and tales of longing, fear and regret. On Peaking, the quartet’s superbly-named vocalist Brighton Gay tells us that he’s ‘having the time of [his] life’ but it sounds more like he’s recently lost a close relative. In fact, such is the versatility of Gay’s voice, he variously sounds like Mansun’s Paul Draper, Elbow’s Guy Garvey and Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl. However, the lyrics he’s delivering do not replicate the emotional depth hinted at by the music. Casual rhyming and lazy reliance upon repeated phrases may disappoint those who listen to the words as well as the tunes. Nit-picking aside, this is a confident and promising debut.


Costar 'Yeah Right'
Two years ago we seemed to be on the cusp of a pop revolution. Kid Galahad, Athlete, The 45’s, Easyworld; all came bearing the fruits of the tree of melody, two years later we’re still waiting for the Fame Academy to be destroyed and its graduates to be put against the wall. That revolution is still fermenting though, its light being nurtured by the old school and the flaming torch being passed to such as London’s Costar. Indie Pop is a genre that no-one’s looking too closely at, but it’s where it’s all happening.

(3.5 out of 5)

Costar 'Yeah Right'
They're from Norway. Their frontman's called Brighton Gay. With all this in mind, we'd quite like them to be the best band in the world, thanks. They're not, alas, but this is a confident enough missive, tearing away onto a plateau of somewhat shiny alt.rock with impressively understated vocals, and, while it's about as new as, ooh, the hills, it's still fine work in a vaguely fourth-album Catherine Wheel fashion, and third track 'A Little Demo' is, in fact, proper special. Coo!

Costar 'Yeah Right'
Of course, sending a bitter old drunk like myself a CD marked ‘Costar’ is asking for it to be sitting on my desk with a glass of bourbon placed on it, but in an uncharacteristic display of coherence I managed to give it a listen. Opening with a sneaky ray-gun noise – always a good idea – first track ‘Yeah Right’ manages to be more engaging than its initial impression of Foo-Fighterness suggests. Despite a desperately predictable lead-in, nice vocal interaction on the choruses and good use of unusual noises lifts it above the average. The middle eight (if it’s still called that) in particular is a sunny poppy whirl that sadly terminates in some clichéd rocking out.

Most of the interesting stuff on the second song is happening in the rhythm track, which is a moody Portisheady thing. Slower and darker with a lush translucent chorus, it still smacks of a band without any clear sense of direction, as if they wish they were weirder then they are. Best track then is the third, titled ‘A Little Demo’, a jangly, resigned piece of angsty indie-pop with some beautiful, half-mumbled backing vocals. This was “recorded and mixed in a hurry” which may mean that they didn’t get the chance to fiddle with the production until they lost sight of the song.
Overall though, I feel a little uneasy when I hear this kind of gruff, earnest alt-rock voice and it sounds too much like Nickleback if they re-invented themselves after hearing ‘The Bends’ for me to be a fan. There’s definitely potential, but Costar aren’t quite good enough to play the lead role yet.