Planes Mistaken for Stars


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There's something undeniably right about an opening song called "One Fucked Pony" -- it just sounds perfect as an image of frustrated desperation. The song itself lives up to it, too, with lead singer Gared O'Donnell barking in a tortured but defiant rasp while the band finds a good intersection between sprawling boogie and tense, trebly riffs, not to mention just slowing down to a total crawl at the drop of a hat. Thus the way Planes Mistaken for Stars starts off its 2006 album Mercy, and the compelling impact of this album is not merely what it synthesizes but how it delivers the results -- whatever their emo roots were, lumping these guys in with Panic! At the Disco would be pretty ridiculous. The gang shouts on "Crooked Mile" and the crushing conclusion of "To Spit a Sparrow," with a final coda that acts as just-gentle-enough balm, are the work of an act that knows its metal, its hardcore, its goth and more besides. Above all else, Planes Mistaken for Stars are incredible arrangers of their work -- they know just how to place things for maximum effect. Consider the thrilling solo that opens "Widow: A Love Song," a shrieking, ascending blast upwards, and how that contrasts with the brutal descending riffs at the conclusion that then slowly rise in turn. The muffled, almost Cure-like drums from Mike Ricketts that open "Keep Your Teeth" -- not to mention its gorgeous mid-song break -- and the split-second guitar squeals on "Little Death" are just some of the many standout moments. Credit goes to them as well for a great, sharp sense of humor -- thus the song title "Killed by Killers Who Kill Each Other" -- plus making a somewhat short CD (38 minutes) seem like a massive epic, down to its hushed acoustic guitar/piano conclusion "Penitence."

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