Punk has always been a genre with a thick history. Ever since its inception decades ago, the name of the game has been speed, fury, and a love of rebellion. It makes it all the more discouraging now that punk has become a numbers game, one where breaking free from oppressive convention is painfully rare. It’s so common seeing up-and-coming punk bands begin slipping into a pattern. For every At the Drive-in and Gaslight Anthem, there are ten other groups appearing to stake their claim from the over-harvested stock brought about by The Ramones, Dead Kennedys , and Bad Religion. We really haven’t seen a huge punk revolution since the late 90’s. But from the rambunctious shores of Santa Cruz come Stellar Corpses, a punk band with a fascination with The Lost Boys and a penchant for classic, crowd-pleasing alternative anthems. With their newest album Dead Stars Drive-in, Stellar Corpses fall into a rut, one where experimenting is forbidden and the template is all the more enforced.
While Stellar Corpses are a punk outfit first a foremost, there are some interesting examples of the band escaping the rapid-fire rush of the punk world. “Pins & Needles” offers a boom-heavy groove with just enough swing and glide to stand out (a very cool use of the upright bass instrument from bassist Dan Lamothe). The band even opens the 50’s rock book, with the single “Vampire Kiss” harkening back to Elvis Presley’s groovy voice. For a genre so venerable and rooted in history, these examples are proof that the genre can go somewhere new. These unorthodox combinations are very welcome and more interesting than one might expect.
Still, Stellar Corpses love their punk. It becomes perfectly clear that these guys grew up listening to the intensity of The Misfits along with the more modern alternative punk bands like AFI or Rancid. The revving guitars and furious drum fills of “Train Wreck” bleed adrenaline, while the title track harkens back to 90’s era AFI with melodic guitar solos and a riotous pace that would make even Blink-182 gasp for air. Drummer Kyle Moore shines during the mind-blowingly intricate fills of “Be Still My Heart.” Bassist Dan Lamothe, once again, uses the upright bass in a very fascinating way, keeping the distortion low and the melody smoother. It’s a cool way to approach punk, one that the band should surely capitalize on for future musical endeavors.
Vocalist and lead guitarist Dusty Sheehan plays a mean axe, with his solos being remarkably gritty, but full of groove. “Blood Red” has a great guitar solo, for example, so Sheehan shows his virtuosity with the six-string very well here. Sheehan’s vocals, however, while respectable, don’t show very much range. He croons like Davey Havok and screams like Tim McIIrath, but his vocals feel repetitive and don’t do much to distinguish one song on the album from another. For a band with so much respect for the entire spectrum and history of punk music, Stellar Corpses haven’t done as much research as they should have.
Despite some solid musicianship, though, Stellar Corpses’ songwriting is where Dead Stars Drive-in loses momentum. Punk music is something of a straightforward affair; successful punk bands like The Ramones and The Clash are amazing since they can keep a stunningly frantic pace, all while making enough left turns to keep the pace from getting stale. Sadly, Stellar Corpses never make those left turns on Dead Stars Drive-in. Many of the songs are fine punk songs, all things considered, but when every song uses the whole “whoa” backing vocal line atop chugging power chords and snare drum gatling guns, the album goes from “fine” to “less than fine.” This becomes clearest when comparing the archetypal punk songs like “Steel Butterfly” and the ridiculously named “Death Ray Vision.” Half of the album sounds interchangeable; there isn’t nearly as much variety in the songwriting as there should be, causing Dead Stars Drive-in to melt together into one giant, middle-of-the-road punk marathon (two words that really should never be put together).
Dead Stars Drive-In may have some small instances of uniqueness, but it quickly becomes extremely difficult to find those instances behind the derivative nature of the rest of the album. For every step outside of the punk archetype the band makes, there’s another two steps back into stale power chords and overused “whoas” of the vocals. The template is organized neatly, but Stellar Corpses never seem to draw outside the lines with Dead Stars Drive-in.
“Vampire Kiss,” the groups’ new video for their first single off the album was recently filmed in Hollywood at a raucous house party, by director Jared Sagal (Rockerrazzi Films), check out the band performing the track singer Dusty Sheehan calls “a tribute to the greatest vampire movie of all time, The Lost Boys, filmed in our hometown of Santa Cruz.” View everything online athttp://www.youtube.com/StellarCorpses.
STELLAR CORPSES CONFIRMED TOUR DATES:
DATE VENUE CITY/STATE
March 23 Sharonville Convention Center Cincinnati, OH
(Horrorhound Weekend with The Koffin Kats, Harley Poe, The Big Bad, and more!)
March 24 Third Street Dive Louisville, KY
March 25 Lindberg’s Springfield, MO
March 26 Wreckroom at Zietaine Nights Amarillo, TX
March 27 Rocky Point Cantina Phoenix, AZ
March 28 House of Blues San Diego, CA w/Tiger Army
March 29 Favorites Las Vegas, NV
March 30 The Bum Steer Winchester, CA
April 12 Tropics Fullerton, CA
April 13 Webers Reseda, CA
April 14 Babylon Fresno, CA
Stellar Corpses…morbidly fun punk rock from Santa Cruz: www.stellarcorpses.com
Become a fan on Facebook: www.facebook.com/StellarCorpses
View videos on YouTube: www.youtube.com/stellarcorpses
Follow the band on Twitter: @StellarCorpses