Former Cleveland Cavaliers beat reporter for Cleveland Scene, write news/policy cover stories & music features at magazines and alt-weeklies nationwide.
As leader of the Kinks, Ray Davies proved one of the British Invasion’s finest songwriters. Their American ascendance was held back by a conflict with the American Federation of Musicians that kept them from our shores from ’65-’69, and cost Davies his due as a lyricist that arguably outshone all his British peers,
Live hadn’t been interesting (let alone relevant) since singer Ed Kowalczyk sported that strange banana from out of the back of his head. He epitomized the pretentiously earnest, angst-ridden, over-emoting post-grunge belter so well that Aaron Lewis should pay him royalties. When his ego finally destroyed the band, Kowalczyk embarked on a solo career inaugurated in July with Alive. A misnomer on par with calling Paris Hilton entertaining, Kowalczyk broods through Cialis-starved power ballads underwhelming enough to nominate Three Days Grace for canonization.
You couldn’t produce a more pretentious, cheese-laden load of crap if you dipped Billy Corgan in Velveeta. Where do brooding, eyeliner-sporting youth go when Twilight fades? My guess is the grocery checkout lane next to former members of Coal Chamber and Stabbing Westward. What happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas.
To be honest, I didn’t even like Blue October back in the ‘90s when they were called Live. With all the self-indulgent histrionics, at first I thought Tenacious D was taking a stab at modern rock. Then I wondered why singer Justin Furstenfeld wasn’t on medication or in group therapy with Aaron Lewis and Scott Stapp, other drama queens who sing like they’re holding back a giant dump. He’s obviously anguished, but metaphors this tortured are against the Geneva Convention.
When does a gimmick officially run out of steam? After the five millionth Intel commerical? Twentieth million? At some point Blue Man Group became as overexposed as Britney’s bare bush (with which they share a passing resemblance). Sure, they deliver a vigorous stage show with enough wit to elevate their colorless, sub-Philip Glass musical minimalism into something engaging, but we’re talking about a trio of blue mimes—the type of shit the French go wild for.
There’s no denying Andrew W.K.’s an interesting character—creating NYC’s hottest club, touring his self-help lectures, hosting shows on MTV2 and Cartoon Network, and recording oddball material ranging from J-pop covers to piano-compositions dedicated to his car. He’s ideal for a tour sponsored by the self-proclaimed Most Interesting Beer in the World with commercials featuring a character only slightly more fictional than Andrew W.K. We’re talking a classically trained pianist whose party-hardy arena-rock might’ve originated in a focus group of people that consider Girls Gone Wild high art.
Call it 30 Seconds Seems Forever since that’s the listening experience. It’s Barney for rockers—the most sentimental, formulaic overproduced crap since Bennifer made Gigli. Weepy manchild Chris Carraba helped found Further Seems Forever in ’98 before moving onto a career making tweens wet with sensitivity.
Semi Precious Weapons is a band that invests more energy in how they look than how they sound, which is fine for those that treat music more like a fashion accessory than a craft. Obviously this works better if you have tits and/or high-concept outfits designed by the Mad Hatter.
Indie kids harbor this delusion that their shit don’t stink, but champion as many steaming loafs as punks and hard rockers. One recent lottery winner is Beach House, whose turgid Fall-flavored shuffles suggest Mazzy Star on Ambien. The music wanders listlessly about the room, expressing moody dissatisfaction and a contagious sense of ennui, while indulging a petulant spat with melody and pep. The gauzy, lo-fi setting for this minimalist pop fosters the impression they’re coyly reticent when the truth is they simply have nothing to say.
Ingram Hill hails from the vast bombed-out center of American culture, the creative wasteland where Hiltons and Kardashians run wild, vampires are more ubiquitous than Starbucks, and Crocs are the height of fashion. There’s nothing odd or irregular about them other than a preternatural ability to make the blandest, most featureless music known to man night after night without sucking the bullet out of a .45. Not to diminish their accomplishments.
No matter how expensive the tools on your workbench, it doesn’t make you a mechanic. By the same token, the Watson Twins and Duncan Sheik may be talented musicians but they’re hardly artists. Both have displayed a load of promise without ever elevating their craft. They’re hardly hacks, but given their gifts, disappointment’s been their bounty. At this point, Sheik’s future’s “Barely Breathing.”
Poor Parachute—they don’t just listen to lousy music, they make it every night. Fresh from college, they set out to create the most tepid, uninspiring dreck imaginable (and were quickly signed). Their 2009 debut Losing Sleep doesn’t sound like the product of human beings, but one of SkyNet’s early Pro Tools-abetted attempts to exterminate mankind by first softening our heads.
Let’s hope Kevin Bacon’s film career never flounders so much that he has to fall back on music. The Bacon Brothers suggest Tenacious D if they adored Jimmy Buffett and Pat Green like Dio, only their humorless earnestness won’t make you laugh, and their lighthearted mirth is more awkward than a Footloose Chris Penn learning to dance.
If the world’s meek heirs are anything like Owl City auteur Adam Young, I’ll spend my final hours with Bret Michaels. Even an egomaniacal brain-dead manwhore is preferable to geeky, infantile musings fey enough to make Glee’s Kurt Hummel seem butch. He may be cuddly as a Care Bear, but if he were a doll you’d be changing his diapers every five minutes. Young’s soggy puerile electro-pop sentimentality crosses the line from mewling sap into emotionally retarded and goes for miles.
A word for those who succumbed to the hype, genuflecting like Pitchfork-poisoned pod-people at the altar of these post-punk parasites: Really? Years (and three progressively crappier albums) later it seems like an embarrassing drug-addled dream. These narcissistic fraudsters only ever really knew how to strike an ambivalent pose or affect a dark mood; actual songwriting never entered the equation. They’re interior decorators, capable of assembling a few key pieces but at a loss as to how to create anything original.