Vote now for Best of Detroit 2021

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Alive to Every Smile

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2002 at 12:00 AM

The story of the Trembling Blue Stars is an oft-told tale: Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl form OK jangle-pop band called the Field Mice. Boy and girl break up, as do Field Mice. Boy develops pathological addiction to girl, forms new band called Trembling Blue Stars and writes song after song about how much he misses, loves and pines for girl. Sweet, ain’t it?

The boy in this case is Robert Wratten, a Brit who has an unparalleled gift for the poetry of heartbreak — even if this gift sometimes makes him sound like the world’s most polite stalker. “When we see a chance to be loved/Who knows what we’re capable of?” he sings on “With Every Story.” Like a twee version of Joy Division or a more intimate Magnetic Fields, Wratten’s music generally consists of a gentle wash of synths and guitars, surrounding melodies that straddle the line between dejection and hope. There’s not much deviation from the Stars’ practiced formula on Alive to Every Smile. The opener, “Under Lock and Key,” is a stormy bit of pop murk, propelled by a drumbeat that’s been distorted beyond all recognition. But things soon settle back down into Wratten’s well-worn path of subdued tunefulness.

Luckily, his lyrics have never been more interesting. His romantically obsessed psyche flirts with denial, anger, depression and acceptance without ever really touching down on any of them. It’s top-notch torch carrying and Wratten is so obviously wounded that you’ll feel sorry for him — even if he’s the sort of person you’d want to keep the hell away from your daughter. If nothing else, the Trembling Blue Stars provide one of the best voyeuristic glimpses into a broken heart you’ll ever get.

E-mail Chris Willie Williams at


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

More by Chris Willie Williams

Most Popular

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 20, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation