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Stellastarr* Comes Back Strong

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 22, 2009 4:00PM

Photo by Phil Knott

It's been three years since Stellastarr* released their last album, and it's cliched to say this, but nowadays that really is an eternity. It's even longer when your band is one that sprung from the same dance rock movement that spawned The killers, The Rapture, Interpol, and a thousand other Brooklyn bands that discovered Joy Division and disco. We've always had a soft spot for Stellastarr* -- full disclosure: The first time we saw Stellatarr* we skipped the opening band ... The Killers -- and thought that their grooves were always just a slight bit more playful than most of their contemporaries. We were also always a sucker for the male / female vocal interplay between guitarist Shawn Christensen and bassist Amanda Tannen.

So it's been a few years, and in that time their peers have done their best to reinvent themselves. The Killers discovered Bruce Springsteen and then Barry Manilow, and Interpol's Paul Banks is about to release a peppier version of his melancholy songwriting featured in Interpol on his first solo outing Julian Plenti Is...Skyscraper. Stellastarr*, though, is still firmly grounded in 2003, which is to say firmly grounded in 1993 ... and 1983. Their new disc, Civilized, features the same driving drums and walls of guitars over basslines that provide the brunt of the melody. And thank God that's the case.

We're reasonably sure the band isn't out to employ a radically different approach to their songwriting, and we don't even get the impression their out to prove themselves to anyone but themselves. It's this confidence that gives their songs their internal thrust. A song like "Graffiti Eyes" is delicious, employing gently funked drums in the verse that precede a sing-along chorus of "woah woahs" that seem genetically engineered to create a room of floor bending bouncing dancers. Even the horns injected into "Prom Zombie" help build the joyous vibe before the hand-clap pogoing helps lock the listener into a unified beat before mixing it all together and dropping the sweat drenched remnants on the floor. The song styles aren't new, but what the band brings is a lighter touch, injecting the minor chords with bursts of sunlight, creating a unique blend of pop, goth, and disco.

The band plays Double Door tomorrow, and we have a pair of tickets to the show give away to one lucky Chicagoist reader. Enter after the jump before 4 p.m. CST today for your chance to win!

Double Door, 1572 N Milwaukee, July 23, 9 p.m., $15, 21+