A Fight At the Opera

The Goods take five steps up, one step back, with 5 Steps to Getting Signed

Seems like only yesterday the Goods were "the best live band in Miami." Blowing everybody away at Miami Rocks, tearing up Churchill's. "If only they could get it on tape..." was the rap against them. Then came 1990's Too True to Be Good vinyl EP and the single "I'm Not Average," and a major-label recording contract seemed inevitable.

In fact, a development deal was worked out with one of the majors (hint: their top executives now eat with chopsticks), and the local boys were flown out to L.A. for some serious wining and dining. Fab -- except for one problem. Our heroes refused to play the musical compromise game, and quicker than you can say "Sid King" (the band's patron saint) they were back in Miami, wondering where they had gone wrong.

It was a strange and awkward time for both the band and their supporters. Many had come to count on the Goods as a fountain of youthful exuberance, the keepers of the rock-and-roll flame, the best and the brightest. It was hard to see them defensive, insecure, bummed.

Why do the kids dig us but the suits don't? Is it somebody in the band? What are we doing wrong? they wondered. The four Goods were overwhelmed with self-doubt. After much soul-searching, they concluded that perhaps the problem wasn't them, that all they needed was to get back to the basics and worry about making music for themselves and their fans. Forget about deals and dotted lines.

So, like any good band should, they wrote their way out of the rut. But in typically unpredictable Goods fashion, they weren't content to write just a few songs and put out an album. No, they had to do something special, something really ambitious and grandiose, something to serve notice that the Goods were back. That's how the idea of a rock opera came to be.

Either that or it was because they told somebody at New Times -- in jest -- that they were going to perform a rock opera at Chuchill's as the climax to a week of gigs with a different theme every night. New Times printed the half-truth as fact, and it became a self-fulfilling prophesy. Or some combination thereof.

The Goods do things like that. They once captivated a Monday night acoustic audience at Washington Square with tales of their trip to Mexico and renditions of songs they had written there, including a mariachi-flavored sing-along that had everybody in the attitude-heavy club dropping their guard and chiming in. Only trouble was, the band had never been to Mexico.

More recently they closed a gig by lip-synching and playing air guitar (even trading instruments during the song) to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Suck My Kiss." They went at it with such enthusiasm that several people congratulated them afterward on how well they had played the tune, with no clue that it wasn't actually the Goods supplying the music.

So now they've got this rock opera, written mainly because they promised somebody at New Times they were going to perform one at Churchill's, and the question becomes: What to do with it? Perform it? Record it on tape, call it a phase and forget about it? Release it as a CD?

If you picked Door #3 (release it as a CD), you're beginning to get the picture. On October 31 the Goods officially released 5 Steps to Getting Signed. Musically, it is an incredible piece of work: confident, accomplished, versatile. As good as anything any rock band from Miami has ever done. Lyrically, it's another story, a compendium of witty anecdotes and clever potshots at the music industry drawn from the band's roller-coaster ride through the biz.

Not surprisingly, this unique enterprise has elicited some chatter in the loop:

"It's their experience, not everyone's," says Quit manager Ralph Cavallaro. "The music's great, but I don't know what they can do with it."

"I'm all over the album," says TCA's John Tovar. "But I think it's funny. I find their sense of humor to be a lot of fun. Musically, it's great. I really like it."

"It works brilliantly in spots," says Mary Karlzen's manager, Rich Ulloa. "I love it, I play it constantly, I have a lot of fun with it. I can't make comments in terms of the business side, just how it affects me personally. It might be a reach, a shot, and maybe that's why I like it so much."

And what do the Goods have to say about all this? Following is an exchange between us and the four Goods, John and Jim Camacho, Tony Oms, and Kasmir Kujawa:

Let's start with the tough one. Everybody seems to agree that musically 5 Steps to Getting Signed is the best thing the Goods have ever recorded. Some have gone so far as to call it the best local album, period. Yet there are many who feel that the subject matter, the trials and tribulations the band has faced in the music business, limits its market potential. Not to mention the fact that of the two most obvious singles, one has lyrics about being "fucked up" and "fuck it to hell," and the other is deconstructed and intercut with dialogue to make a point. How do you respond to that criticism?

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