Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Stellastarr Get Civilized
After Stellastar's second album Harmonies For the Haunted, I pretty much chalked them up to be a one trick pony. They had their big indie hit, worldwide tour, a bit of buzz and after that album were headed back to obscurity. To some degree that's exactly what happened, for Stellastarr pretty much disappeared from the face of the earth sometime around 2005. While that was four years ago, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to them. Rather than rushing to record, tour, and record again the band has instead taken it's time planning it's return carefully and now with new label in tow and a sense of urgency Stellastarr have returned with Civilized.
The first thing you get a sense for when listening to Civilized is that it doesn't seemed pressured. Much of Harmonies For The Haunted was plagued by the sense that their label was pushing them to create 12 new versions of their hit, "My Coco," and that was it's problem. Unlike Harmonies For The Haunted, Civilizedseems calm, mature and sounds as if the band is actually enjoying being in a band again. It's a fantastic record that tears away the shackles of their post punk past and embraces a soaring sense of pop and melody. The results of this new found energy are quite surprising as the album at times sounds almost overjoyed and overwhelming. Listening to Civilized is like listening to what would happen if Interpol and the Cure got together and formed a side project and were put on happy pills.
Civilized has it's dark edges and occasional bits of gloom but it's elevated my a melodic sense of self and the fact that playing in a band is supposed to be fun. Stellastarr now come across as a band that's still hungry and judging by the ten songs on this album they should be. It's a great record that really shows how much potential this band has always had. So few bands are able to mix darkness with light and throw in harmonies to die for with success but Stellastarr have put the pieces together and solved the puzzle. From the brilliant opening tune, "Robot," to the jerky and jumpy, "Grafitti Eyes," or the post-shoegazing anthem of, "Move On," Civilized is nothing short of a really good pop record.
Times have changed and so many of the bands that were big around 2005 are dead and buried, but Stellastarr have proven they've got staying power. One can't help but wonder in an alternate universe what would have happened if this record was their second. Whatever may have happened is irrelevant, what is relevant is the fact that Stellastarr have created a gem of an album and totally reaffirmed my belief in them! A one trick pony, Stellastarr is definitely not.