Stellastarr*-Stellastarr* (RCA)
review by Jim Clark

Track Listing

1. In The Walls
2. Jenny
3. A Million Reasons
4. My Coco
5. No Weather
6. Moongirl
7. Somewhere Across Forever
8. Homeland
9. Untitled
10. Pulp Song



Listening to the music on the self-titled, full-length debut of New York City's Stellastarr*, one can't help but think of Joy Division or old New Order. There are the similarities in the guitar playing of Michael Jurin with Joy Division's/New Order's Bernard Sumner. Or the upfront bass of Amanda Tannen and drums of Arthur Kremer, quite reminiscent of Peter Hook and Stephen Morris, respectively. And vocally, lead singer Shawn Christensen, whose vocals range from straightforward to shrieking, often within the same song, can remind the listener at times of Joy Division's nihilistic Ian Curtis.

But what sets this group apart from the bands mentioned above are the backing vocals of Tannen. Also sounding quite early-80's influenced, Tannen's vocals work quite well with Christensen's. Nowhere on this disc does this combination work better than on "Somewhere Across Forever," where their voices are used to great affect on the choruses, not to mention some lovely harmonies. The punkish "Pulp Song" sees Christensen varying his vocals, including screaming at the end of the track while Tannen maintains a consistent backing vocal throughout which oddly works quite well. On "Homeland," Christensen sings quite impressively on the choruses while Tannen hangs a dreamy vocal over top of it. And her "ohs" and "ahs" on the opening track, "In The Walls," are the only thing that keeps it from sounding like a long-lost Joy Division number.

Shifting gears, there's the atmospheric "Moongirl," which save for a few lines of mostly distorted vocals, is otherwise instrumental and gives a chance for the band to shine at their respective instruments including some interesting guitar effects.

Then there is the acoustic ballad "Untitled," which also breaks with the 80's feel. Kremer shines on this track, but as a keyboardist, not a drummer. The song opens with acoustic guitar and some spacey keyboards and the middle of the track even sees Kremer supplying an organ solo. Quite a nice track, and quite different from anything else on this disc.

If you're a fan of older New Order or Joy Division, or early 80's modern rock in general, you should find this disc quite enjoyable. While there's nothing particularly groundbreaking here, it still makes for a good listen.

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