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We Can't Stand Sitting Down

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Jul
We Can't Stand Sitting Down
Sounds like … the pop-friendly punk rock of Hawk Nelson, Relient K, Good Charlotte, and Simple Plan, along with the power pop of Weezer and All Star United. At a glance … though Stellar Kart retains a simplistic punk and power pop approach, their sophomore effort is a step forward from their debut, thanks to better songs and productionTrack Listing Procrastinating Activate Me & Jesus Lose Control Hold On Always Waiting Only Wanted Finding Out Wishes and Dreams I'm Pretty Good I Wanna Live Angels in Chorus Hold On (reprise)

When Stellar Kart debuted with All Gas No Brake in early 2005, it seemed like the world needed another pop-friendly punk band like a hole in the head. Despite the popularity of Relient K and Hawk Nelson, there were signs that the style was on its way out, with lots of similar bands failing to make headway. And while "Spending Time" was the album's primary radio hit, some would say the most memorable song was their cover of Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer."

Regardless, the band from Phoenix struck a chord with the intended teen audience, earning New Artist of the Year in the 2005 Ignite Your Faith Reader's Poll, and a similar nomination for the Gospel Music Awards. Fans are eager for a follow-up, and Stellar Kart obliges with new bass player Brian Calcara joining lead vocalist Adam Agee, drummer Jordan Messer, and guitarist Cody Pellerin. The result is We Can't Stand Sitting Down, offering more of the punk and power pop you would expect, if the clever title weren't already a giveaway.

The band isn't reinventing the wheel here, but they do benefit from the aid of producer Ian Eskelin (All Star United, Krystal Meyers). Though his influence is sometimes too clearly felt on this album, it's well matched in this case—Agee even sounds a bit like Eskelin at times. The overall sound is punchier and brighter, much closer in quality to the better pop-punk acts today, and you can't help but get caught up every time they yell out a rocking "Hey!"

The songs are all better too, though it still feels like Stellar Kart is catering to a proven formula. "Procrastinating" is a fine song about putting fear behind in effort to make progress, but it sounds like most every other pop-punk rocker from the last few years. As does "Activate," a rallying cry for youth to step outside of their lukewarm comfort zones. "Always Waiting" offers speedier punk about contentedness, but it blends right into the similar sounding "Only Wanted" with its portrayal of a broken father-son relationship, which in turn blends into the similar sounding expression of God's unconditional love, "Finding Out." It's one of those albums where if you really like one track, you'll probably like them all—if you're lukewarm to it, things can get old quickly.

"I'm Pretty Good" has a more hyperactive punk style that's more distinctive, appropriate to the lyrics about coping with mediocrity and the world's vastness. It's also good to hear Stellar Kart break out with rockers like "Lose Control" and "I Wanna Live." With these, they build upon their punk roots in the same way Hawk Nelson did with their Smile, It's the End of the World project or Relient K with the release of Two Lefts Don't Make a Right.

The band's growth is most clearly heard with a handful of pop/rock anthems that complement the punk but more resemble the work of Weezer and All Star United. Both "Me & Jesus" and "Wishes and Dreams" are simple, yet catchy and effective in their encouragement. The similarly styled and comforting "Hold On" (probably the most overused song title in existence) features a big chorus with an uplifting finale—a reprise of the song at album's end is as inspired as the familiar climax of "Fix You" by Coldplay. "Angels in Chorus" is the token worship ballad closer, but it too serves to bring some variety to the proceedings.

If Stellar Kart was All Gas No Brake last album, they seem stuck in second and third gears here—cruising, sure, but not varying their "speed." A definite progression for the band, We Can't Stand Sitting Down is a fun, enjoyable summer album for the youth group set, but it merely pleases those expecting more of the same from the pop-punk genre. What Stellar Kart needs to do next is build upon their teen ministry focus by broadening themselves stylistically, more up to par with Christian bands like Hawk Nelson and Relient K—or better yet, develop an altogether distinctive flavor of pop-punk. They've now proven themselves strong enough to the point where they shouldn't be content with simply following a template.

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