Although widely unknown until the early 1990s, Nic Dalton has been releasing records under various names since 1985. While still going through his primary musical education as a member of Australian punk band the Plunderers, Dalton began to write songs that he felt were inappropriate for such use. In time, he found the friends to bring his creations to life, and in doing so launched a singular musical organization. Conceiving of it as a creative commune, Dalton (vocals, guitar, bass, etc.) dubbed the revolving, evolving band Godstar after a 1986 single by Psychic TV. Thanks to the internationalization of the independent underground, Dalton has been able to bring together diverse musicians from several continents, yet each release retains some stylistic continuity. Besides leading Godstar and Sneeze and running the Half a Cow label, Dalton has done time as a member of the Lemonheads, Love Positions and Hummingbirds. He’s most prominently featured on 1993’s Come on Feel the Lemonheads and has toured extensively with the band.
Dalton recorded Sleeper in Boston with Evan Dando and Tom Morgan and Alison Galloway (both of Smudge; Morgan wrote lyrics for the Lemonheads’ It’s a Shame About Ray, to which Dalton also contributed a song), former Hummingbirds/Love Positions bassist Robyn St. Clare, Rachael King of the Cakekitchen and Bob Weston of Shellac. With chiming guitars and charming vocals, most of the sixteen jangly pop confections (“Bad Implications,” “Everything You Give Me Breaks,” “Something Unplanned”) sound like the work of such British “C86” groups as the Razorcuts, Pooh Sticks and Flatmates. Standing apart from the other tracks are two solo drone poems (“Forgotten Night” and “Every Now & Again”), which highlight Dalton’s fascination with the Velvet Underground.
“The Brightest Star in the World,” which was rerecorded for Sleeper, also serves as the spirited, immediate title track of an EP with three non-LP tracks. In turn, Sleeper‘s “Lie Down Forever” became the lead item on an EP of otherwise unreleased material (including a number called “Sleeper”) recorded at various times between ’90 and ’93 with Morgan, Galloway, St. Clare and ex-Lemonheads bassist Jesse Peretz. Despite the disparate circumstances and styles, the six songs on Lie Down Forever all bear Godstar’s discernible mark. “Sleeper” betrays an affinity for early Jesus and Mary Chain, with a strong melody line engulfed in fuzz; “Lie Down Forever” and the haunting “Dead Sad Night” raise Dalton’s debt to the Velvets. The Glasgow EP was recorded during a 1993 Lemonheads UK tour; with none of his regular cohorts in attendance, Dalton assigned the bass and drum parts to local Scottish studio musicians, but got singer/guitarist Eugene Kelly of Eugenius in to give the release that special Godstar flair. The title track of the Single EP also comes from Sleeper.
Dalton tried out democracy as a concept for the Four Seventy EP. Each song was written and sung by a different member of the ensemble; significantly, they all sound like Godstar. Morgan and Galloway, respectively, take the lead on “Love & Trucks” and “Sunshower,” while Dalton does his quirky pop best on “Mr. Austin.” St. Clare easily wins the hand with the soul-searching “Load.”
With Boston’s Fuzzy serving as a backing group on several songs, the magnum opus Coastal — recorded over the course of a year with the usual suspects — gets an extra kick on “Friend of a Friend” and the title song, which suggest how Godstar might sound if it were a proper band. Elsewhere, Dalton mounts both feisty pop songs and clearly produced sound collages inspired by Brian Wilson.
“Table for One” (from the EP of the same name) brings Godstar onto the dancefloor and sounds like something from Primal Scream’s Come Together or the Soup Dragons’ Lovegod. The EP also includes Dalton’s tepid crack at George McCrae’s disco classic “Rock Your Baby.” The other three songs are more familiar Godstar terrain: “High Anxiety” is a speedy pop leftover from Coastal.
Sneeze is a way for Dalton and Morgan to clear out songs too “goofy” to put on albums and too good to throw away. With no song checking in over two minutes, Sneeze condenses 20 of ’em on two 7-inches. While almost everybody in the Godstar universe can be found on at least one track, Sneeze also includes various members of Swirl and Ratcat. Of special note here is Hummingbirds singer/guitarist Alannah Russack (via Tom Morgan’s lyrics) taking a swipe at the Lemonheads on “Shaky Ground,” and the final recordings by the Lemonheads’ Lovey lineup (Dando, Peretz and David Ryan) on “Autumnal Eyes” and “Trouble in School.” The most entertaining numbers are the most frivolous, like “Ripped Jeans” (a tribute to the Ramones) and “Don’t Go Girlie.”