Independent Records – 2005 - 60 minutes

For today's carefree Celtic Tiger cubs, references from thirty and fortysomethings to how tough it was 20 years ago can make 1980s Ireland seem a world apart.

As journalist Nick Kelly puts it in the liner notes to this release, it was a time of mass emigration, mass unemployment and Mass - none of which could be applied in the same way to 2006. 

Perhaps then these are two timely reissues from a Dublin band that never quite made it big. They feature separate releases of the Stars of Heaven's mini-album 'Sacred Heart Hotel' and the 'Holyhead' EP that followed it on one CD, and 'Speak Slowly', the band's only ever full-length album on another.

The albums' new liner notes feature contributions from the band members, journalists and record label representatives on how it all began and how it all went wrong.

DJ Tom Dunne, then a rival of The Stars Of Heaven in Something Happens!, feels the Stars' problem was they were before their time.

And it's true, on parts of 'Speak Slowly' you can feel an alt country vibe that would slot directly into a Wilco album today, and this years before the sub-genre even existed.

One track that should have been a hit is '2 O'Clock Waltz', a downtempo tale of unrequited love soundtracked by a combination of unmistakably 1980s drumming, haunting Clannad-esque vocals and, ahem, an accordion.

While it's hard to imagine a Dublin band in 2006 aiming for success in rock with an accordion in tow, it seems to work here. On this track as well as others such as 'Lights of Tetouan', the quality of the band's guitar play is also evident.

Both of these tracks were among the newer songs the band had at the time, though the record also features many songs that had been written long previously, which perhaps explains its uneven nature.

Elsewhere on 'Speak Slowly', the Stars' trademark elements of Irish folk, 1980s rock rhythms and country music melodies don't quite fit together.

As guitarist Stan Erraught observes in the liner notes, if the Stars had clung together for another album before their split in 1990, things could have worked out much better for them. Perseverance, it seems, is one lesson here for young bands seeking to achieve success in the music business today.

Bill Lehane

Tracklisting: Sacred Heart Hotel:  Sacred Heart Hotel – Talk About It Now – Moonstruck – So You Know – You Only Say What Anyone Could Say – Folksong – Man Without A Shadow

Tracklisting: Speak Slowly: Unfinished Dreaming – Little England – What Else Could You Do – Paradise Of Lies – 2 O'Clock Waltz – 28 – Lights of Tetouan – Leave As You Came – Every Other Day – Three Kings Day – Ghost Cars