red lights

The '80s are back
(and it's not as ugly as you might think)


(RCA Records)
3 1/2 (out of 5 stars)

Reviewed: Sept. 22, 2003

Review by Tony Bonyata

Well folks, it was just a matter of time before it had to happen. The '80s are starting to rear their head once again, in the form of a band known as stellastarr*. Thankfully, however, this New York quartet have distilled many of the hipper, more appealing elements from a decade that, musically, was bloated, pretentious, superficial and - let's face it - just downright awful.
With a sound that hearkens back to some of the bands that actually mattered twenty years ago, such as The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Joy Division, on their self-titled major label debut, all ten of these songs sound as if they were to be used for the soundtrack to one of John Hughes' aborted '80s teen flicks.
Led by the guttural moaning of vocalist and guitarist Shawn Christensen, along with bassist Amanda Tannen, guitarist Michael Jurin and drummer Arthur Kremer, the hook-laden compositions here are brimming with warm Pixie-ish harmonies (courtesy of Tannen on "Jenny"), reflective Cure-like guitars ("Moongirl" and "Homeland), decadent balladry that tips it's hat to the Britpop band Pulp ("Untitled") and post-punk New Wave anthems ("In The Walls," "My Coco" and their first single "Somewhere Across Forever"), that all leave you questioning if the '80s were really all that bad in the first place.
"Come on down to my house, there's a swimming pool and it's winning over everybody," croons Christensen on "Homeland." The only problem, though, with a spirited band like stellastarr* inviting us to take a dip in their '80s music nostalgia trip, is that those guys with the big hair and leopard skin spandex trousers can't be too far behind. God forbid.

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