All Gas, No Brake is the debut album by pop-punk band Stellar Kart. It’s a smart, fresh power-punk sound that fuses engaging lyrics with catchy melodies, designed to appeal to the teenage crowd but still sounding pretty good to the ears of someone who thinks he remembers what high school was like (er, that’d be me). The band members are all still fairly freshly minted high school graduates themselves (all of them are between 20-23), and the focus of their album is reflected in its title: they’re going full speed ahead.
Initially, I thought they sounded like a younger version of Relient K, a band whose sound has matured over the course of its four studio albums (Relient K’s most recent release, mm-hmm, came out last fall). I have to admit that’s funny too: not so long ago, Relient K was a high school punk band. But while their music sounds reminiscent of Relient K or a clever synthesis of such groups as Green Day or Blink-182, ultimately Stellar Kart manages to produce their own unique concoction of pop, punk, and faith. Like many teenagers today, band members Adam Agee (vocals, guitar), Jordan Messer (drums), Cody Pellerin (guitar), and Tay Sitera (bass) enjoy living the “extreme” life; they also believe that “you can be a Christian and still rock.”
Their songs have a level of personal meaning and message – for example, “Superstar” is a song about teen suicide, something that the band members indicate has affected them personally. “Second Chances” is about recovering from life’s mistakes, and “Student Driver” reflects the difficulty of trying to speed through life on our own. The album also includes a cover of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” and I have to admit that I found it hilarious (probably unintentionally so) that they would say “we were thrilled to put our own spin on this classic tune.” Then again, it’s been almost twenty years, hasn’t it Jon? That really puts a whole ‘nother perspective on the notion of “classic rock.” Let’s just say that when I was growing up, Bon Jovi was hardly what you’d call a classic.
Anyway, I enjoyed the enthusiasm reflected on this album by four guys who obviously enjoy life and who also think there’s something else (as they put it on the song “Life is Good,” their attitude is, “Life is good/eternal life is better”). The production values are solid and the songs are engaging and fun. The frantic punk pace of something like “Student Driver” manages to slide nicely into the more melodic “A Love Song,” and I have to admit that I’m still trying to decipher the lyrics on “Tree Climber,” a 23-second explosion of energy and sound. All in all, it’s a very nice debut; here’s hoping they do indeed keep going “full steam ahead.”