At first listen, Detroit indie rockers Stare Into the Sun sound a lot like a local version of Interpol. There's frontman Kevin Murphy's urgent vocals about literate heroines ("Henrietta"), the familiar Joy Division-like bass ominousness of "Synapses" and drone-y "Hearts of Men," the stylized police state drama — keyboards and all — of "Patrol." But where Interpol plays it cool in suits and toned-down stadium hooks, SITS, as the name implies, likes it hot.
And this is where Whispers Turn to Howls succeeds, when it redlines over its deadlines. Murphy isn't afraid to go somewhere unexpected with a vocal; check out the vaguely Arabian melody he busts on "Patrols" (not to mention the keyboard whoosh that launches the song), or the falsetto (!) he hits on the end of the Emo-&-the-Bunnymen-ish "Madame Valencia."
Credit producer Dave Feeny (Loretta Lynn, Blanche) ably balances the spiking sonics while keeping the caterwaul songwriting from flying too close to the sun (the gloomy two-step of "Synapses" doesn't turn into goth cow-punk, for instance, despite some noisy flare-ups). But, most of all, credit SITS with merging the strange future feeling of goth, Britpop and the guitarchitecture of the best post-punk and transforming it all into a straight-ahead, full-on rock band over the course of the whole album. And when Murphy, vox-bassist Jay Livernois and drummer Mark Pankonin are really feeling it, as they do on "The Most Fun I've Had in Years," ... well, with all its twists and eargasm-inducing art-damaged guitar, that title pretty much sums it up for them as well as the listener.
Stare Into the Sun plays Friday, March 21, at Jacoby's, 624 Brush St., Detroit; 313-962-7067. With Lightning Love and Emily Rose.
Hobey Echlin writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.