Stellastarr* - Civilized (2009)


New York-based rock band stellastarr* is a unique enigma. They are classified as "indie," but after a quick listen it is anything but. Their sound is more or less a melding of 80s new wave and a modern rock sound. Whether that’s a good thing or not though, is up to for speculation.

The new wave sound that broke through in the late 70s/early 80s through bands such as The Cars and Talking Heads was interesting. With the exception of the two aforementioned bands, as well as a couple others, this music style that combines synthesizers and pop vocals, is not one people admit to liking these days. To many, it is as cringe-worthy as disco.

Not only did this sound create an erratic multiplicity of carbon copies midway through the 80s, but for some reason or another, bands with their own unique sound, elected to use synthesizers. From Neil Young to metal legends Judas Priest, bands/artists you thought had credibility. soon jumped on the bandwagon. Truth be told, many of musicians looking back on that time, consider this change a major back-step in their careers.

My question is: why in 2009 would a rock band consider adding new wave to their sound? Personally, I don’t understand it. However, stellastarr* proves to be a competent, talented band. They have a number of excellent riffs and textures to their songs, but the use of synthesizers and poppy vocals might be too predominant.

On the first listen, I could hardly stand any of the songs featured on Civilized. They felt way too cheesy. However, the disc eventually grows on you. Their instrumentation is exceptional. The song structures are strong and are actually quite fast for a basic rock band. While there are casual, light songs such as “Tokyo Sky” and some mid-paced rockers such as “Freak Out,” the real strength is that these guys can flat out play fast.

From “Robot” with its speed-demon almost industrial feel to it, to a U2ish vibe on “Move on,” stellastarr*’s pyrotechnics will get your heart racing with sheer adrenaline where you will be craving for more. Even the rhythm of the drums and bass, while not superb, aren’t half bad.

Unfortunately, to get to that point of enjoyment, you will have to survive a grueling 2-3 or more listens to really appreciate it. With Civilized having the new wave sound buried in every nook and cranny, the 80s will eventually come back to your conscience. While there is talent to be heard from stellastarr*, the new wave sound might make you feel like it’s the 80s all over again and, honestly, not everyone wants that.


Album art: 
Release date: 

1. Robot
2. Freak Out
3. Tokyo Sky
4. Numbers
5. Graffiti Eyes
6. Prom Zombie
7. Warchild
8. People
9. Move On
10. Sonja Cries

Music label: 
Bloated Wife Records
New York, United States
Average: 5 (4 votes)
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