Stella Rose is the best new grunge band you’ve heard but tough where others are just loud, and spacey where others are just gratuitously prog-rockish.
The profound lack of sonic depth on Starving Hysterical Naked, the Fort Worth’s trio’s recent full-length debut, is redeemed by the music’s brutal, baroque darkness. Along with bassist and background singer McKenna Madget, drummer Matt Mabe and vocalist/guitarist Stephen Beatty punch, kick, and scream so hard, your gut will hurt.
The biggest revelation on Naked is the band’s mature, fully developed sound. Even though all 11 songs teem with instantly recognizable references, the aggregate product adheres to no single, obvious musical lode star. On “The Christmas Tree,” the spirit of PJ Harvey makes an appearance in the form of a steady, sludgy, predominantly single-note bass line, but she’s eventually buried beneath ominous arena-rock riffage (think: Sabbath, Rush, Zeppelin) and pure despair. During the chorus, over an epic expanse of crashing cymbals and growling, churning guitars, Beatty, with Madget providing sweet harmony, sings, “I hit my head on the ground ’cause I like it … I like it.” Sinister, self-loathing, in-your-face — this is the real shit.
Elsewhere, the ghost of The Toadies is summoned for “China Doll,” “Hole in Her Heart” goes from Stone Temple Pilots at their most melodic to coarse Nirvana for the chorus, and when musicians raised in the ’90s approximate early-’70s glam, something great like “DeAnna” can happen. (The handclaps during the breakdown are awesome.)
Even when the band appears to settle into a groove, the more is more approach rears its head and, surprisingly, still produces magic. A prime example is “Karmatic.” Mabe’s furious Middle-Eastern pounding, though mighty, can’t steal the spotlight from Beatty’s elegant yet raw playing. Going native, the guitarist seduces an elongated, serpentine lead from his ax the way a snake charmer might coax a cobra from a pot.
Stella Rose is new, sure, but the band has already secured what may prove to be one of the biggest end-of-summer shows in town. On Sept. 9, Beatty, Mabe, and Madget will open for Calhoun and Flickerstick at The Aardvark. Tickets are available at www.frontgatetickets.com.
Fri w/The High School Assembly at The Aardvark, 2905 W Berry St, FW. $7-$10. 817-926-7814.