Here at The Daily Campus, we receive a plethora of freestuff from record labels eager for some good reviews. Sometimesit’s little more than a sampler of a group’s latestefforts, sometimes it’s a full album. For the longest time,this mountain of music has remained untouched for fear of what liesbeneath its shrink-wrapped surface of bad cover art and exclamationmark-laden cover letters. After all, if a record label has resortedto sending full albums to a college newspaper, they must bedesperate. But no longer – I have taken it upon myself todive headfirst into this stagnant pool of mediocrity and bring tothe surface the very worst that music has to offer. You may notagree, you may think I’m too harsh, but that’s thenature of this business.
This is Bad Press.
Manitoba Up in Flames
The thing about Up in Flames is that I desperately want to likeit. Even though the vocals on this album are ludicrously drenchedin echoey effects, you can tell that these guys have a good graspof rhythm, and they know how to use it effectively. I found myselftapping my foot along with “I’ve Lived On A Dirt RoadAll My Life” and, for a brief, flashing moment, I thought tomyself, “Hey, maybe this isn’t so bad after all.”I was just getting into the groove when what sounds like asaxophone-playing monkey having its way with a synthesizer suddenlytakes over. Perhaps it broke into the studio and surprised the bandwhile they were recording. Stuff like this happens throughout thefirst few tracks. You’ll find yourself at a very upbeat,interesting part of the song, then BAM — insane monkeysynthesizer. By the end, the band apparently decided to just letthe monkey record the rest of the album, while they went out for asmoke. There are a couple of redeeming tracks, like “KidYou’ll Move Mountains,” but the rest just doesn’tappeal to me.
One of the first things you notice about this album is itsincredibly original design. Every page of the liner notes is madeto look as if the lyrics and track listings were scribbled on theback of Polaroids. I simply must applaud Stellastar* for thisinnovative artistic choice. It’s something that I’venever seen before. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m goingto go watch Memento.
The second thing you notice about Stellastar* is the way theyspell their name. That’s right, the “*” issupposed to be there. Every time you write the band’s name,you have to hit the asterisk. Why a simple name using thetried-and-true basic alphabet was below Stellastar* is beyond me.Maybe they thought it was edgy. I think it’s pretentious andannoying. Since it takes me that much longer just to type theirname, it’s put me in a bad mood before I even listen to theCD they sent us. Any hope Stellastar* had of escaping a bad reviewhas just vanished.
Let’s talk briefly about yodeling. Yodeling has its place,preferably in Switzerland and amongst the mountain goats of theAlps. It does not belong in what I am assuming is supposed to berock and roll. I actually made it to track No. 4 of this delightfulnugget of joy despite the strained warbling of lead vocalist ShawnChristensen.
Try again, Stellastar. Asterisk.