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Expect the Impossible

  • reviewed by Christa Banister Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Feb
Expect the Impossible
Sounds like … frenetic power pop (minus most of the punk) in the vein of All Star United, Weezer, Hawk Nelson, FM Static, and Fountains of WayneAt a glance … while the songs on Expect the Impossible are undeniably catchy, there's still a feeling that we've heard this album beforeTrack Listing Innocent Automatic Jesus Loves You The Right One Sunshine Pray Shine Like the Stars Eyes I Give Up Letters

If All Star United cranked up the decibels a little higher and ingested an entire box of Frosted Flakes before hitting the recording studio, the resemblance to Stellar Kart's third album would be uncanny. And that stylistic similarity isn't at all shocking since ASU's Ian Eskelin not only returns to the producer's chair, but also co-wrote eight of the tracks with Stellar Kart frontman Adam Agee. What's truly surprising is just how similar these two bands have become. Beyond the style, Agee's vocals are a dead ringer for Eskelin in some instances.

In an effort to broaden their horizons beyond passé pop-punk, not to mention another round of comparisons to Relient K and Hawk Nelson, Stellar Kart smartly incorporates some fresh sonic embellishments on Expect the Impossible. For the most part, the strategy works, whether it's the quirky computerized accents in "Shine Like the Stars" or the Duran Duran-era synths employed in "Eyes." But while these little flourishes add stylistic panache, the end result still ends up sounding like an ASU b-side. Off with the old band comparisons, on with the new, I guess.

Unfortunately, what's still sorely missing from the equation is Eskelin's witty Christian wordplay. For those who loved the No. 1 hit "Me and Jesus" from Stellar Kart's last album (2006's We Can't Stand Sitting Down), "Jesus Loves You" could be its identical twin—right down to the way it starts out slow and earnest before giving way to a monster pop chorus. Other tracks, like the struggles-themed "Pray" and the hopeful "Sunshine," suffer from a surplus of sunny clichés—"I admit that some days can steal my happiness/But I've still got joy."

Chances are that the youth groups for whom this project is intended won't mind the simplicity, especially when the songs are so well-intentioned and delivered in such a catchy, high-octane fashion. Yet given the band's energetic potential under the tutelage of a creative artist like Eskelin, you still can't help but hope for band that rivals All Star United in lyric as well as sound, not just a lighter, fluffier retread.

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