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StellaStarr* - 'they kicked fuckin' arse, man!'


Review: Jack Foley

‘STELLASTARR*, they kicked fuckin’ arse, man!’ was the excited cry of one fan after the rapidly emerging New Yorkers finished their support slot for Jane’s Addiction, at the Hammersmith Apollo, on Wednesday night (November 12, 2003).

It may have been over-enthusiastic, but not that wide of the mark, for StellaStarr* did, indeed, justify their reputation as one of this year’s brightest discoveries, and didn’t seem at all phased by the prospect of playing second fiddle to one of alternative rock’s biggest bands.

Musically accomplished, and possessing an air of emerging cool that seems almost exclusively reserved for anyone out of New York nowadays, StellaStarr* delivered a short, but memorable, set that drew a deservedly enthusiastic response from the Jane’s Addiction devotees.

Opening with the edgy, vocal-strewn album track, In The Walls, the band then delivered a quick-fire showcase of their obvious talent, which provided plenty to ponder for the future.

Lead singer, Shawn Christensen, provides a no-nonsense presence, seeming content to get on with the music, rather than court the crowd in any way, while his enthusiasm for the material is plainly evident for all to see, as he wails, contorts his body and generally gets lost in the frenetic mix of lively drums and guitars which are a defining feature of the debut album.

His distinctive, powerful vocals evoke memories of 80s-based outfits, such as the Psychedelic Furs, Talking Heads and John Lydon, while the guitar sound is also reminiscent of bands such as The Cure, as well as remaining in keeping with the new rock-punk sound that has excited the music buying public, once again.

Where StellaStarr* mark themselves out from being ‘just another band’ riding on the coat-tails of forerunners such as The Strokes, however, is in the range of their music, and the presence of female vocals.

Sadly, this was the one area where they struggled to recapture the form of the album. Bassist, Amanda Tannen, seemed to struggle to be heard above the powerful guitars (much as she did at the band’s Barfly gig, earlier this year), which occasionally threatened to diminish the impact of tracks such as Somewhere Across Forever and No Weather (in which she features more prominently).

Tannen gave it her all, to be fair, but either her vocals weren’t powerful enough, or the acoustics of the Apollo failed to do it justice - all of which meant that for those listening for the first time, some of the material sounded a little simplistic when compared to the studio work.

That said, the multi-layered guitar riffs, coupled with Arthur Kremer’s energetic drumming, served to ensure that StellaStarr* were musically very tight, and hugely accomplished, and tracks such as Somewhere Across Forever, My Coco, the instrumental, Moongirl, and the finale, Jenny (another former single) helped to provide a near-perfect starter to the main course served up by Dave Navarro’s legendary antics.

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