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Author: Stephen Carradini

The Stellas – Music for Umbrellas

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

As Advertised — Soundtrack To Life EP

Some bands take a while to get used to, but you enjoy them more with every listen. As Advertised is different. They hook you instantly, sucking you into their charm and diversity, and still get better each time you listen. This CD, a mere 27:34, has more styles than some bands can pull off in an entire career.

The five-piece kicks off with a short intro, which leads into “Heidi”, a medium-tempo punk song. It’s a great opener, leaving you wanting more of this canned adrenaline, while adequately displaying everything AsAd (as the nickname goes) is: tactful, fresh lyrics; clear, emotive vocals, and talent from every member of the band.

They promptly toss a curve, and fade into “The First Time”. With an acoustic guitar and minimal percussion, this song has an almost folk vibe, written as a birthday present for a girlfriend. It moves along well, being pretty without being boring. Those who were waiting for more punk are treated to “I Know, I Know”, a pop punker which begs to be danced to. A keyboard carries the lead riff for “Homecoming”, an electric version of an acoustic ballad off their debut CD “Let’s Just Be Friends”. It is catchy beyond all reason, and features a great bass line as well.

The last printed track (August) ensues, and it’s a slow, immersing, sounds-so-sad-but-is-just-as-beautiful double acoustic emo masterpiece. The hidden track is very humorous, and I’ll let you discover it for yourself. Overall, the frontman, JD Campbell, shines lyrically and vocally, which is a rare thing in the world of punk. Like it has been said, you can teach yourself to play better, but you can’t change your voice.

A jewel in any CD collection, this is worth two or three times the price it goes for. Check them out immediately, you won’t be disappointed. 9 out of 10

Mourning September — 3-song pre-release

Mourning September may or may not be a reference to that infamous day. It really doesn’t matter though, because the music speaks for itself. This three song-prerelease is an excellent taste of what’s to come.

A drum solo is the lead-in to “Running”, a melodic rock song which asks a question no one wants to answer: “What are you running….running from? What is it you escape?” The bridge is by far the most interesting part of the song, after the lyrics. The lead riff from ‘Goodbye’ almost sounds punk until the whole band fills in, pounding out a driving force to accompany the pain-filled vocals. Lyrics could be absent and the point would still be made, as the intonation is expertly done. The breakdown is terrific, a characteristic of MS.

‘Every Dream’ showcases the drummer’s technical ability, and the most haunting vocals on this short EP surface during the chorus. The characteristic breakdown isn’t the best, but a fantastic outro appears, redeeming it.

My qualms with this are length and variation. The three songs all have a mid-tempo vocal style that, while interesting, I would like to see them differ from. Overall, it leaves me wanting so much more. Then again, that’s the point. Well crafted, I’ll be expecting great things from them. 7-10

All Against Adam — S/t EP

This album starts out with sounds of a thunderstorm rolling in. Some people don’t like thunderstorms, most are just ok with them, and some love them. That twelve-second intro sets a good analogy towards the entire album. I’m just ok with thunderstorms and All Against Adam.

The first riff introduces “She Needs Me” with a clichéd guitar run with placed drop-ins of bass and drums. The high, warbling, we’ve-heard-this-all-before vocals jump in, and we find that they like to go for soaring vocal lines (lead and backup) for their not-so-deep lyrics. They are mostly about relationships, but without a poetic tact that sets some bands apart. “Girl In Green” shows some promise, not in instrumentation (which isn’t cliched this time but still not completely original), but in vocals, with a catchy melody and effective backup vocals. The line “Girl In Green” is always sung a cappela , creating a fresh, darker feel. ‘Sensitivity’ gives us a moody, ethereal intro that had me waiting for the problems to start, and I was surprised to find that they didn’t. This is my favorite song on the album, as it held my interest with its moody, restrained groove. After a return to pop-punk cliché’s in “Lost Cause”, they impart on us “One Last Chance”. A heavy, dark punk tune, it including a foray into screamed backup vocals, which were unexpected, but done with taste. The melody on this is my least favorite, as it sounds strained, too high and a tad off-beat at times. The lyrics are worthy of a song of this nature, and probably the best on the album.

I sense there is creativity to be mined in this band. They just need to have someone tell them what’s been done before and what hasn’t. Their darker music intrigues me more than their opposite end of the spectrum, because (I know this by being in a band) it is hard to write original pop-punk. The well is empty, the mine explored. There is promise for AAA, but right now the product is rough. 5 out of 10