Thursday, July 27, 2006

History's Stranglers

In addition to magazines like Rolling Stone and Punk Planet, I enjoy reading Alternative Press on a regular basis. Yes, I'm fully aware that I am not in their target demographic, but I get some good stuff out of each issue. I do get very annoyed at plenty of things I see in each issue, but I've recently realized some yins and yangs about life in the last few months.

I cringe when I read that line in the Cartel article about how they don't want "to put out records that are only gonna sell 50,000 copies." I cringe when I read about how Eighteen Visions are trying to be rock 'n' roll stars. I cringe when I read about how many young bands laugh at the notion of paying any sort of dues. Yet in the same pages of this same publication, I read about bands like the Bronx, the Format and Head Automatica, aka, bands that are not strictly for the fans of mall-ified versions of music. I don't know exactly how these three bands will be thought of in the future with this younger generation, but they definitely won't be thought of as Winger, Overkill and White Lion are to my generation.

The Bronx aren't cute mush, but they aren't unlistenable garbled trash either. Instead of acting like they don't give a fuck, they sound like they truly don't give a fuck about how they are perceived. Parts old-school punk and hard rock, the Bronx's new record sounds like they are being their true selves despite being on a major label. The major label funds helped them make a great-sounding record; not the stuff of marketable cheese.

On Dog Problems, the Format sound like they are coming from the cloth of great '70s pop rock. Yes, those are horns and a clarinet on the title track and yes, they work incredibly well in the context of the song. Pianos and strings also have an important role and work really well too. This might sound like circus music or AM gold to those that want their music homogenized and lifeless, but to me, this is some of the best pop I've heard all year.

Head Automatica's Popaganda does owe a debt to bands like Squeeze and Elvis Costello, but that's not a drawback to me. Yes, vocalist Daryl Palumbo tends to curl his words just like the former Declan MacManus does, and yes, there are some keyboards that sound tuned in the key of Steve Nieve, but still, I don't mind. In-demand producer Howard Benson helped craft a record that is big on hooks and, most importantly, substance. Yes, these are some ultra-poppy songs, but when there's a smile on my face instead of a scowl when I hear them, there's something going right here.

The idealist side of me wishes that I could overlook all the crap that pisses me off and just focus on what I like. Well, I'm too curious to overlook the bad stuff. A part of me wants to read about clowns like the Rocket Summer and Panic! At the Disco so I can laugh at them. To take a cue from something Henry Rollins said years ago: get to know your enemies well so you can build up your supply of ammo. Plus, I can't help to get sucked in by what pisses me off. Trying to read about a band that I will probably like requires treading through swamps of terrible bands. Such is life. There is always hope, but sometimes hope gets a little too cloudy to see.


Eric said...

Are you kidding me that Cartel said they don't want to make records that only sell 50,000 copies? What a bunch of d-bags.

Sorry for that nasty comment, but what happened to making art for art's sake and just being passionate about it? I actually sorta like Cartel and it pains me now.

None of the bands we listen today will ever have the same lasting appeal as White Lion, etc... EVERYTHING IS ABOUT MARKETING AND ABOUT MUSIC AS A PRODUCT.

I like both the Bronx and Head Automatica even though they are major label bands. They aren't marketable enough to sell 1,000,000 records, and I think they are OK with that. I have to give kudos to whatever labels both those bands are on.

I'm rambling now...

amy said...

i have to be honest with you, after seeing the bronx live, the do sound like unlistenable garbled trash. their albums represent them so much better in my opinion.

but that's just my opinion. =)