Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Stellas

December 11, 2003

I hate it when good bands make live albums, cause live albums usually suck. No matter how good the live show is, the goods just can’t get transferred into CD form. And that’s with the major label people. Independent live CDs are scary affairs….very scary.

Don’t get me wrong; the Stellas have an infectious, fun live show.  The female fronted power pop/punkish vibes they so blissfully exude lead me to hold high opinions, despite previous knowledge of live albums.

This CD is actually two concerts in one, a live concert at the legendary CBGB’s in NYC, and another at the sadly not-so-legendary Green Door. The better of the two is definitely Green Door, as a hometown crowd and some guest backup vocals help them out immensely. The CBGB concert is crowd-dead, and there just seems to be no energy in the band. As all the CBGB songs are doubled in the Green Door part of the CD, you should just skip the first part.

The Green Door section is pretty good. The Stellas go for a harsher set of vocals than on their studio album,  drifting in and out between poignant, perfect melodies and harsh, raw moments. It’s a bit odd if you’re acquainted with “Umbrellas”, but not too bad at all for newcomers. There are two new songs, both of which sound intriguing enough that you want to repeat them. Tyson Meade, vocalist from the Chainsaw Kittens, is featured in some songs, and sadly, he doesn’t fit their sound at all, except on the spectacular version of “Just What I Needed/Da Da Da” whose darker tone fits the occasional screams dropped in by Meade perfectly and induces shivers. Besides that song, he pretty much overpowers everything, and ruins the few songs he is present in. That aspect of this album is very unfortunate.

There’s nothing much else to say about this. It’s a very average live CD, as most of the songs stick to the way they were written. I’d personally check out “Music for Umbrellas” or a live show over this CD. Whichever way you do it, check out the Stellas. Their power-pop pizazz is just too good to pass up.

Read: www.thestellasloveyou.com

Listen: www.sonicblitz.com

Buy: www.sonicblitz.com

The Stellas – Music for Umbrellas

July 17, 2003

This cd is titled astutely. You can take this out on a rainy day, and have shelter from the elements (mood-wise). This girl-fronted punk band isn’t your average dime-a-dozen punk run-of-the-mill. They sport no bassist, but there are bass lines, don’t worry. Although males might have a problem with the pink-ness of this album, the gain cancels out the semi-embarassment.

The album starts off with a bang, producing the catchy, upbeat “Better Off” about a relationship gone wrong. The Stellas’ lyrics mostly deal with relationships, for better or worse. This chorus is such a sing-along that they even put some guys singing along in the background on the last chorus.

The aforementioned lyrics become cliché and overwrought on the next song, “When He Says He Loves Me”. The vocals are also bland during the verses, leaving them nothing to stand on. The chorus has a male and female backup voice, which sounds very cool, as the male voice is an interesting style. The bridge is a killer keyboard riff which you will find yourself humming incessantly.  Together they make this song one of the most fun songs on the album.

‘I Am Wrong’ passes without much ado, which leads into the best sounding track on the album: “Girlfriend”. Their radio single, it features a nifty percussion riff, played on two drumsticks. The guitar line, if not creative, sounds fresh with the keyboards added in. A hummed bridge adds to the character of the song. We continue though ‘Fluff My Aura” which spotlights backup vocals (if backups are the most important, are they still backup?), and “The Bulletproof Anthem” which starts off well but drags way too long.

Next is a cover of The Cars classic “You’re Just What I Needed” which lacks the punch of the original but it still worth a listen. Another short song is tacked on the end, presumably another cover, called “Da Da Da”. “I-40”, the most introspective lyrically, introduces an absorbing bass line, before stating “My hypocritical side…is my downfall.” The CD ends on a green day-ish note, with an acoustic song. Actually it’s an every punk band idea now….but it WAS a green day idea.

Overall, there is much room for improvement, such as development of all the little-used talent in the band (male vocals, great bass playing, lyrical content), and overall refining of material. A good debut, worth the cash. 7 out of 10

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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