Stellastarr* - Stellastar* - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Stellastarr* - Stellastar*

by Bob Coyne Rating: Release Date:2003-10-13

Stellastarr*'s Stellastarr* arrives with absolutely zeitgeist-perfect timing. Along with fellow New York art-pop brothers-in-arms the Rapture and Hot Hot Heat, Stellastarr* lead the vanguard of the kinetic 80s-obsessives currently making the Detroit garage boys' dad-rock and the Strokes' late-70s new-wave shtick sound a little, well, yesterday. It's this kind of scenester one-upmanship that put the Strokes' aquiline noses out of joint when Stellastarr*'s artist frontman Shawn Christensen painted them as corporate Pez-candy dispensers.

But it's music that counts. Sure, they're a to-die-for line-up of good-looks, angled cheekbones and art-house chic, with a drop-dead-gorgeous indie girl on bass guitar, but it's the songs on this, their debut, that are really sexy. Bursts of Duran Duran synthesizers, underpinned with Joy Division basslines, rub up against long-forgotten Cure-style chiming indie guitars, the complex song structures welding 80s pop sensibility to 90s fast/slow, quiet/loud, girl/boy early-grunge dynamics.

The album does sag a little in the middle: there's a touch too much B52's quirkiness, and the Big Country chunky-knit guitars sound overblown. Debut single, "Somewhere Across Forever", for example, overdoes the hairslide-fringed Bis-esque cutesiness. But the Robert Smith-snogging-Kim Deal clash of storming stand-out second single "Jenny" is four minutes of thrilling catharsis climaxing in Pumpkins guitars and Christensen screaming "Oh my God... she'll be coming after you in the summertime"; and the bittersweet bedsitland melancholia of "Untitled" is heartbreakingly moving. Ultimately, Stellastarr* inject a timely dose of drama and passion back into indie rock. And if they skip the twee stuff and don't disappear up their own Ooberman, they could be the next Pixies. --Paul Eisinger

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