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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

After the Eulogy

In the last few days, Punknews.org has reported on two break-ups of bands that were once considered poised for major stardom, but they never achieved such. Today, Acceptance announced they are calling it quits while Boy Sets Fire announced they are breaking up on Monday. I could not call myself a big fan of either band, but they've been on my mind since the news broke for a few reasons.

I may be totally off here, but if I recall correctly, Boy Sets Fire was one of the first few bands that had songs that either used guttural singing over abrasive metal/hardcore or whiny/emo-ish singing over poppy stuff. Sometimes the two extremes would mix, but more often than not, they were showcased in completely separate songs. Sometimes this would be cool, but other times this would make me laugh in a non-congratulatory way.

Boy Sets Fire was a very politically-driven band. They wanted to spread their outspoken ideas to the most amount of people as possible, so the lineage of labels they were on makes sense. Releasing their debut album, The Day the Sun Went Out, on Initial Records, they would release splits with Coalesce and Snapcase and later find themselves on Victory Records and Wind-Up Records. Their Victory-released After the Eulogy was well-received, but their Wind-Up-released Tomorrow Come Today just fell flat on deaf ears. When your highly-touted "major label debut" comes with a sticker that says that the label believes in artistic expression but doesn't agree with the views expressed on this particular record, you're in trouble.

Boy Sets Fire has plenty of room to feel bitter. Reading their bio on their page, I can't help but feel for them. They were going down the path that so many bands go down in hopes that they aren't gonna get screwed or passed over. Well, the tough reality is that this is something way more bands go down than the ones that don't.

With Acceptance, I remember the three-fourths page advert in Alternative Press boasting rather bold claims about this band. Poised to be "the next big thing" by either Spin or NME (I can't remember), Acceptance had all the right cards in their favor. Their record, Phantoms, came out on Columbia Records, they had Matt Pinfield as their A&R man and had a really polished sound that sounded crafted for a large audience. Lead single "Different" was an iTunes free download of the week and being the curious guy that I am, I downloaded it. The song is not bad, but it's definitely something that sounds like it was labored over for mass mall appeal. Instead of puppy-dog scream/sing mall emo, this sounded like a crossover between Train and Jimmy Eat World. Hey, at least it's not something strictly for "the kids."

Why I bring up these bands is because I've realized something. These were bands that I heard hurrahs about in their time and now that they're done, the responses are more in the vein of "Who?" and "So what?" than anything else. So much can be placed into the talking up of a band and this only makes me more suspicious of today's up-and-coming bands. This is especially of note with how they are marketed.

A full-page advert in the latest AP talks up a band who, in the words of Absolute Punk, has the "potential to be the next Cartel or the Academy Is . . ." Now hold up: Cartel and the Academy Is . . . are just now getting started in the minds of the mass-marketed "underground" in the mainstream. A baby band in a field of toddlers that is poised to be as great? What? But here's the really funny thing: the name of this band is All Time Low. That's about as funny as Cute is What We Aim For.

The point of all this rambling is that the media tends to overplay up stuff for the sake of a gaining an audience. That's nothing new, but seeing the cold shoulders of people when a once-poised-for-stardom band breaks up, I wonder how affective, truthful and sincere advertising and publicity really are.

1 comment:

captain groovy said...

Never any telling what people will like.You can lead people to a band but you can't make them care.I have followed the hype to many bands.Sometimes the hype is dead on.Bands i discovered thru the music press.Well all the original punk bands.Yes i'm old. I read about a band who sounded like The Byrds called REM in New York Rocker.They came to Dallas & opened for the Telefones a local group.I knew they were destined for greatness.I bought Joy Divisions first album based on a review in Sounds. The list goes on & on.The point is alot goes into becoming a hit band.Songs,production,timing,growth,image, & on & on.Alot of times bands make it because they just tour the hell out of the country.Trust me thats how bands like Van Halen,Rush & even U2 made it.They just keep coming around til they get an audience.Thats alot harder nowadays.
I guess the point is with the internet & all hype is at an old time high.This has always happened in England where you are on the cover of NME before your first album & forgotten about by the 2nd.But its a new thing in the states.Websites like Pitchfork Media are causing shows by bands like Wolfmother & Panic at The Disco to sell out days after their first album comes out.That was unheard of 5 years ago.
So whats the moral of this story.Like Mott The Hoople used to say rock & rolls a losers game.When you get the 5 minutes of fame you better make the most of it because the circus can up & leave town any minute.And as a listener all we can do is take a chance & make a decision to keep listening.