Set Yourself On Fire opens with a god-like voice proclaiming, “When there’s nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.” This sets the tone for the album, using self-immolation as an assertion that we all need to take it upon ourselves to be part of selfless actions. As vocalist Torquil Campell said, “We all have to set ourselves on fire. We can’t wait for someone else to ignite that in us that is beautiful, that in us that is important, that which we have to do, that which is our dream. So much of life is spent trying to dim what you are, control what you are, and I think pop music and music in general can make you feel like you want to break out of what you’ve become, burn it all, and start again.”
Two of the highlights of the album touch on important political strife we face. “He Lied About Death” is an assult on Bush, exposing his hypocracy, greed and violence with poignant lyrics, asserting, “a liar loves to lie, keep watching your back, killers always have killers on their track”. “Celebration Guns” laments for the innocents killed in Bush’s war, using the Iraqi tradition of using guns in celebration as a contrast with what has befallen the country during the American invasion.
The title track explores the interconnection of life, how seemingly diverse places, experiences and people all share common life. As the song says, “Out there amongst the waves and inside your lover’s head, there is only one thing.” It’s a key for the unlocking of, as a recent Exclaim! Magazine article deemed it, “the dawn of world domination by the meek.”
Much of the album focuses on the familiar territory of the interaction of lovers. “The Big Fight” is one of the more tender love songs on the album, dealing with the difficulties and failings of relationships. While a several songs explore ended relationships, “Ageless Beauty” calls out the eternal nature of love, “In this love, we will always be a light.”
Stars’ last album, Heart, had already placed the band among my favourites with its superb musicanship, thoughtful lyrics and themes. Set Yourself On Fire takes the band forward into the realm of masterwork. This is the most finely crafted pop album to be released this year.
Isn’t it time we all set ourselves on fire?