New Zealand expatriate Chris Sheehan is Starlings, a bland American-based compromise between the slick Dylanesque confessionalism of Elliot Murphy and the intimate casualness of Beck. Loping along semi-tunefully with a self-conscious late-night feel and dull lyrics about scoring and addiction, Valid is occasionally interrupted by noise incursions (“Now Take That”) or brisk guest drumming (“That’s It You’re in Trouble”), but the ex-junkie’s pretentiously dramatic whisper never achieves artistic liftoff.
Although Too Many Dogs evinces more energy, rhythmic variety (“Loch AAngeles Monster” and “Other Peoples Children” strike a clubby dance groove), style and studio ambition (he’s no Prince, but the record does sound like a spare rock band effort), Sheehan’s tired solipsism fails to connect on any level. “Mr Wishy Washy” attempts to register an ironic social comment-but can’t rouse itself to say anything worth recalling. Now that’s wishy-washy.