Thursday, April 28, 2005

Don't Believe the Hype!

No matter the rung of the industry ladder, the most valuable skill in the music biz is hype. If the talk convinces the public to walk, then congratulations, you've won the lottery. Witness, the acme of hipster music websites. Their fawning review and saturation coverage of the Arcade Fire's Funeral earned the site almost as much ink as the band. Editor-in-chief Ryan Schrieber's modest surprise at Pitchfork's buzzworthiness may be orthodox underground etiquette, but what music critic doesn't have a Napoleonic desire to be a tastemaker with the Midas touch?

So a website's glowing words helped the Arcade Fire catch - so what?

Well, I wouldn't have a problem with it if the album were half as good as Pitchfork says. Ever since the internet became the world's largest musical library, people have been tripping over themselves to champion the Next Big Thing so they can claim cred over all y'all corny bandwagon-jumpers. Rather than raising standards, this has resulted in the exhaltation of the mediocre, as anything that might catch on is praised to the heavens by zealots more concerned with their scene points than progress. Are the Strokes really that impressive a band? No, it's plain that they're not - now. But remember when everyone tried to convince you they were?

And so today, I offer you a handful of current bands who are hot to name-drop but, frankly, ain't worth a muti-album contract.

Bloc Party - Like Eating Glass

You liked Franz Ferdinand, but found them a little heavy on design and light on delivery? Then Bloc Party's for you! Another Brit band mining the craggy Factory Records quarry, Bloc Party bolster their Gang Of Four clang with some Fugazi-class earnestness without rekindling the fire of either. Not to mention their drummer overplays like he's in Lightning Bolt - relax, son, it's post punk! You don't need fills!

Out Hud - One Life To Leave

Brooklyn dance-rock quintet Out Hud features several members of !!!, so no wonder they sound just like !!! without being as interesting. Whatever.

The Boredoms - 77

This one hurts. The Boredoms used to be the reigning kings of noise, ralphing up records that sounded like meth-spiked chimps abusing a recording studio. It was a glorious, transcendent, blissfully uninhibited explosion of musical convention.

And then, somewhere in the late '90s, the Boredoms learned how to play their instruments, got seriously into krautrock, shed a guitarist, and turned into a big Osaka-based drum circle. Their songs flattened from sonic smorgasbords into mind-numbingly repetitive 20-minute vamps that showcased more tape manipulation than compositional complexity. The song "77", mercifully, still features the guitar butchery of Seiichi Yamamoto to add some spice, but is dynamically flatter than Saskatchewan.

Vice Records just signed on to release the new Seadrum/House Of Sun album in the States, and Very Friendly Records' reissue of three early-'90s Boredoms albums have garnered great reviews across the board. It's very much en vogue to be hip to the B.O.R.E. right now, but fuck it... it ain't worth it. Seadrum/House Of Sun is a turgid, new-age snorefest. Do yourself a favour and buy Pop Tatari instead.

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