New York's Stellastarr* (slated to appear at Larimer Lounge on Tuesday, April 20) has taken a ton of shit over the last year. Having gigged around Gotham with the pre-fame Strokes, the coed quartet has been accused of riding Casablancas and crew's coattails -- of landing a major-label deal on the merits of luck, geography and not much else.
Of course, all that may or may not be true -- but who cares? Would the Clash have gotten signed if it hadn't been for the hype kicked up by the Sex Pistols? Would Pavement have made it onto MTV if it hadn't been for Nirvana? It's about time everyone quit giving credence to all the petty, irrelevant and, frankly, jealous allegations being leveled at this group, just because it happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Instead, let's focus on why Stellastarr*'s music sucks dog dick.
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First and most glaring problem: singer Shawn Christensen's voice. The dude can't hit a single solid note, influence or even accent; he sounds alternately English, Irish and American -- often within the span of as many syllables -- while wobbling obnoxiously between brand-X Brit-pop and bad Cure karaoke. The fact that Christensen gets pissy in interviews because no one can pick out his "true" vocal inspirations (Elliott Smith? Bob Dylan?! More like that Chinese guy who got kicked off American Idol) makes him even more of a joke than his lyrics already suggest. (One example out of dozens: "Saw three roads, which way to go?/I won't forget you, Co-co-co.") On the instrumental end, the band resembles Interpol as might be interpreted by Barenaked Ladies: empty glumness, dreary glam, ingratiating jangle. On the album's opener, "In the Walls," Christensen wails like a voice-cracking, eyelining high school thespian: "I'm trying so hard/I'm trying so hard." As if we couldn't already tell.