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splendid > reviews > 1/8/2004
Stellastarr
Stellastarr
Stellastarr*
RCA


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "In the Walls"

Buy me now
I should not like this album. No one should. And this shouldn't be worth talking about. In fact, I'll admit to be surprised that I'm willing to do as much. But it's amazing to think that someone hasn't already done this. I mean, it's shocking to think Stellastarr can exist in a world where the Strokes are thriving under the weight of a second full-length release, Interpol are touring the shit out of songs that passed their sell-by date nearly fourteen months ago, The Stills are picking up the trash of the feeble New Wave revival, and Hot Hot Heat are convincing everyone that they're the new XTC.

But where Stellastarr's debut hits the jackpot is in their gutsy decision to wipe the slate clean by declaring the years 1981 to 1996 a single era, synthesizing the sounds of that fifteen year stretch by playing every band on the soundtrack to a mid-eighties John Hughes gem with the knowledge of the nineties college rock boom. Think of the diversity of the Some Kind of Wonderful set with the populist touch of Pretty Pink and you've hit it square on the head. Hell, sometimes Stellastarr has me convinced that "My Coco" should be included on every reprint of those albums.

The band, a four-piece that hooked up at the Pratt Institute of Art, should be incredibly unlikable for the all name-dropping and style-pinching they do, but through it all -- including "Jenny", an unabashed chomp out of the Pixies songbook -- they keep their faces straight. Fuck, they rip off Pulp's "Common People" note-for-note and call it "Pulp Song". When is it all going to stop? They do dabble a little deeper in more recent entries to the alt-rock canon -- both Tripping Daisy ("A Million Reasons") and Boces-era Mercury Rev get a nod -- but it's really the classics that consume Stellastarr. Roxy Music, Talking Heads, Duran Duran, Psychedelic Furs and Echo & The Bunnymen are the apostles in a biblical remix that synthesizes post-punk, glam and art-rock. And we can't forget the Cure. There is at least one copy of The Head on the Door circulating among Stellastar's members.

Ultimately, all the inter-textuality becomes a little too much to bear. There isn't even a hint of originality here, and the band's timing couldn't be worse -- they've arrived to the party too late, and the pretty girls and boys have already paired off and shuffled into the hallways and out of sight. Truth be told, I'm still waiting for the news that this whole thing is a joke -- they don't really think they're a band, do they? But for a child of early-eighties pop who worshipped at the altar of Seven and the Ragged Tiger, General Public's All the Rage and the Furs' Talk Talk Talk before bowing to the twin gods Morrissey and Marr, Stellastarr is just too much fun not to enjoy, at least for a little while.



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