Sunday, February 17, 2008

DONITA SPARKS and the Stellar Moments



The year was 2000 when the flames of L7 slowly faded away like the sun setting behind the ocean horizon. Now, in the year 2008, a new day has risen for former L7 front-woman Donita Sparks with her debut solo album, “Transmiticate.” And although it took her eight years to reawaken, Sparks has proven that good things come to those who wait.

With Transmiticate, out February 19th, Sparks still incorporates the engine-roaring guitars of L7 but manages to paint dance-pop and electro-grunge beats to her songs – sort of like trading in a rugged muscle car for a much sleeker sports car. Along for the ride with Sparks are the new vibrant sounds of her new band, “The Stellar Moments” featuring L7 drummer Dee Plakas.



Streaming of electronic-pop with a fluid current of continuous guitar riffs and reverberating vocals, “Fly Feather Fly,” the first track of the album breaks down expectations of what fans expect from the former front lady of L7. Given that Gram Rabbit guitarist Ethan Allen is co-producing the album with Sparks, it’s not surprising that “Transmiticate” is rich with a perfect mix of rock and electronica. We even get Jessica von Rabbit lending supporting vocals on “Fly Feather Fly.”

The trend continues in “Dare Dare” and “He’s Got the Honey,” songs fueled with a driving up-tempo steady 80’s dance-beat with the attitude of Joan Jett.

“[These songs] are tracks I want to hear on the dance floor,” says Sparks. And for that reason, She’s brought on an extra guitarist so she can interact with the audience more during her live shows.



Transmiticate definitely shows a more mature Sparks as she shifts to more personal and often times vulnerable moods. Take for instance her song, “My Skin’s Too Thin.” Trickling with melancholy anger and reminding me of the sounds of The Smashing Pumpkins, it’s the first time I’ve heard Sparks’ vulnerable side.

“covered in buttons for you to push/don’t take advantage ‘cause my heart has been smushed…My skin’s too thin/for the game you’re in.”
This new ‘mature’ Sparks is sure to reach and gain a newer audience with her loyal fans welcoming her new sound. “Creampuff” conjures images vintage ‘60’s girl group pop with a delicate brushing of a tough Betty Rizzo while one of the most touching songs on the album is “Curtains for Cathy.” She sings the story of Cathy in the same matter-of-fact, impartial fashion in which the tragedy was conveyed to her.

Sparks
explains, “‘Curtains for Cathy’ is a sad tale but I tried to tell it in a detached, almost Haiku way. The song is based on a true story and that’s how I heard it the first time, sort of deadpan.”

“Infancy of Disaster,” “Head Check,” “Need to Numb,” and “Into the Hi Fi” encompass the raw energy that made L7 performances memorable with unforgiving crashing guitars and hard beats - like a harsh wasteland of the ocean with surf cowboys attacking the swells and carving through the roaring waves of electro-grunge.

With a wide range of sounds, from dance, 80’s beats and rock/electronica, Sparks’ new debut album is clearly a departure from the torrent sounds of her former band. But she proves that she is her own personality, igniting a new sound and moving to new territories from the glimmering grey ashes of L7.

Transmiticate is not the only new venture Sparks has been keeping busy with. Currenlty she contributes her music/pop culture column "The Spin I'm In" to the popular, politically progressive blog, Firedoglake.com. She also, along with singer/songwriter Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses), has launched the COALITION OF ARTISTS AND STAKE HOLDERS (CASH Music). Understanding the challenges of the music industry, especially in this new digital age, CASH Music is a platform for artists to create a sustainable livelihood by releasing new music and media while also allowing more interaction with fans. To read more about this new venture, check out CASHMusic.org.

This year is going to be a busy year for Sparks. This month, Donita Sparks and the Stellar Moments heads off to Brazil for their own headlining shows and then it’s back here to Hollywood for her record release party at Safari Sams on February 29th. Then, after a stop playing SXSW in March, she plans to tour the U.S. and Europe this spring and summer.

LINKS:
Official Site: Donita Sparks and the Stellar Moments
Myspace: Donita Sparks
CASH Music CASHMusic.org