Stellastarr* | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The New Yorker and MTV are already onto these Brooklyn art-schoolers like Saruman and Sauron, but do they got what it takes? Though they shrug and agree with critics who call them derivative, it's hard to pin Stellastarr* to a handful of influences or even a genre. The vocals of front man Shawn Christensen mix Rick Sims with Robert Smith and Fred Schneider, while backups from bassist Amanda Tannen put her in the running for Rock Dream Girl (on a ballot with Kim Deal, Poly Styrene, and all four Shirelles). They say they're coming out of synth pop (though they have no keyboard player), but you can hear Motown, garage, punk, and indie rock just as clearly on their eponymous RCA debut, and the radio-friendly "My Coco" combines stadium-size vocals with driving drums and joyful bass to evoke the best of U2 or Springsteen without a trace of Phil Collins. In one interview Christensen says he started playing guitar and writing music during the depressive years that followed a breakup, and he shows a knack for mopery on a few songs. But on repeated listening it becomes apparent that the glee-to-self-pity ratio here favors a diagnosis of merely situational depression. So bring on the fame: when I'm too grizzled to get out, it'll be nice to have these cuts in the oldies-radio rotation. The Killers open. Tuesday, April 13, 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Phil Knott.

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