Ed Ball is an incredibly hard man to pin down. About as close as one could get would be to say that his ventures have been all encompassing of the Indie genre in the same way that Creation Records symbolized "Indieness" in the early 90's. His output, both solo and with the Television Personalities, the Times, and O-Level provide great tunes for all.
When 'Star' was released in 1992, the Teenage Filmstars caught the attention of not only the indie kids, but also of those who were looking to keep the Orb's trancey electronica alive.
Ball personified the output of Creation Records and many would have him to thank for providing inspiration. There is a little something of his style in almost all of his label mates output from the time.
'Lift Off Mit Der Teenage Filmstars' (otherwise known as 'Star') has many similarities with My Bloody Valentine's release from the previous year, 'Loveless'. Intricate loops swirl in and out, and there are swathes of effects-laden guitars. Even the vocals are kept deliberately low in the mix on most of the tracks, reminiscent of Belinda Butcher's breathy voice. But, this album is far from being a copy of 'Loveless'-True, it has much of My Bloody Valentine’s psychedelic style but it also has so much more.
The sleevenotes for 'Star' provide no clues as to who provides the female vocals on some of the tracks - It may be Belinda herself.
One might feel that My Bloody Valentine's front man, Kevin Shields, would not appreciate such a closeness to their own masterpiece, yet Shields is far from derogatory,
"A sensitive soul from another planet. A modernist musical alchemist - where other people struggle Ed plays what we're thinking."
Fond words from one genius to another. The quote was made for the sleevenotes of the Ed Ball/Teenage Filmstars/the Times/O-Level compilation album, 'Here's to Old England' (Artpop!, 2005).
The first track on the album, 'Kiss Me' is anthemic and akin to the Nice’s 'America'. It sets the tone for what is to come - progressive 90’s psychedelia.
'Loving' and 'Inner Space' could quite easily be mistaken for My Bloody Valentine tracks, yet there is a certain edge, a traditional pop song element, that sets them apart - an added dimension which makes them more accessible.
Many have covered Nick Drake, but very few have given Drake’s songs such an overhaul - In 'Apple', 'Fruit Tree' is dissected and remoulded into an up-to-date track, one that Drake himself would probably have admired.
'Vibrations' is the simplest of songs. A sample looped over and over draws you in and holds you tight within the first few bars. It refuses to let you go for a whole six minutes. It is both incessant and beautiful in its hallucinogenic grip.
The are few artists that would be bold enough to mix samples from 'Bladerunner' with Steeleye Span's 'Gaudete'.One might think that this would be just too far out there, but Ball can do no wrong and is truly inspirational. The words, "Time to die" creep in like paranoia on a bad trip, but the music offsets this unease and all is well in the world.
The final track of the error-free ten, 'Moon', picks up the beat once more is the symphonic encore that the album deserves. Heavy drums battle it out with feedback guitars and distorted synths, It builds to a crescendo with a furious drum roll, then fades leaving you wondering where you have been and what you have been doing. It leaves you wondering how and why this album slipped through the net.
'Star' is a tremendously busy album. It is, however, far from being chaotic or unlistenable. It flows elegantly from start to finish and over the 54 minutes there is not one point at which Ed Ball's talents can be doubted.