For their third album, Stellastarr opted to go it on their own and release the record, Civilized, on their terms, and their label, Bloated Wife Records. However, nothing about the band seems to have changed at all since their previous efforts, which is either a good or bad thing, depending upon which camp you sleep in with regards to your opinion on the band.
Kicking off the album is “Robot,” and Amanda Tannen’s presents the most throbbing bass lines to date for the band. While the guitars shatter in some other worldly angular atmospherics, Shawn Christensen repeats the lyrics “by design/you’re going to hurt yourself.” The lyrics appear to have less of an impact than on previous efforts, but the cutting edge guitar riffs show that the band means business.
When track three, “Tokyo Sky” sets off, you’re tossed back into that classic new wave sound, with clean jangling guitars, but just as you get comfortable and nostalgic, they press down on the distortion pedal, they pull out some “Today”-era Smashing Pumpkins guitar miming. While the guitars continue to swirl about the song, Christensen does his best to fall somewhere between himself and Davey of The Promise Ring. Oddly, the lyrics refrain of “my Tokyo sky” recall the same refrain of “My Coco” off the group’s first album.
“Graffiti Eyes” probably has the most bounce of this set of songs, which is sad, since the band has been successful with such styles. However, Tannen’s backing vocals provide a great counterbalance to the jagged yelp of Christensen. In the chorus we find the band nearing their most straightforward pop approach to date, although the music doesn’t seem to comply necessarily. Although this is the single for the band, this isn’t necessarily the best song on the album. That award goes to “Prom Zombie” with its entirely playful singalong moments between Tannen and Christensen. It’s the one song on this album that just seem like they’ve been rehashing themselves entirely. And, there are horns! Horns bro.
The latter half of the album is much like the first half, with it all ending in “Sonja Cries,” the one song when you can clearly hear Christensen’s vocals. Surprisingly, this seems like the exact direction the band should have gone to begin with, or at least built into the album as a whole. By this point, the airy atmospherics of the guitars have grown weary after listening to them for three straight albums. In the end, the band has created more enjoyable numbers for you to add to your collection, though they might not be the most memorable moments in the Stellastarr‘s history.
Download: Stellastarr – Prom Zombie [MP3]