Commerical Artists

In rock music, the separation of art and commerce is almost sacred. So meet the new apostates -- the Advertisements.

But carrying the torch for the much-maligned jingle is a difficult task, and Whipple concedes that the band may be an idea ahead of its time. "We recorded the album on our own, and then found that it's hard to explain it so it doesn't seem like a joke or some sick parody," says Whipple. "When we've tried to tell record companies that `no, we're not a comedy act, we're a real band and these are songs close to our heart,' they kind of back off and look at us like we're putting on some spin. Most executives want to read this as a novelty, or a satire like [Neil Young's] `This Note's for You,' and it's neither of those things. So we were happy to find a label who could respect our perspective." They settled on Chocolicious Records, a tiny Chicago independent.

The irony of going outside the corporate major-label beltway for a product so blithely corporate is not lost on Whipple. But he remains convinced that his band's approach is not only acceptable, but quintessentially American. "We have a free market, we have products, and we have advertising, and the process by which people connect with that system, man, that's one of the most exciting things around," he says. "About six years ago during the baseball season there was a ball that was hit deep, and the centerfielder had to climb the outfield wall to have a shot at it. Well, Eastern Airlines had rented the wall space, and in the newspaper the next morning there was a picture of this player catching the ball in the middle of the air, suspended in front of these giant wings. I was uplifted. When you see art and consumerism come together all packaged together like that, it sticks with you."

As the debut LP struggles to find its way, the band has already chosen the material for its second album, which will combine unused tracks from the Product Placement sessions with historical investigation. "We're going further back in time, taking some radio spots from the Forties and Fifties," says Whipple. "And these are songs with even more complex arrangements, jazz-influenced. We might have to send out for some string players." But what about that fateful day when the band runs out of jingles to cover? With the talent they've shown for fleshing out such skeletal compositions as "I Love What You Do for Me, Toyota" and "Reach Out and Touch Someone" -- which comes complete with a funky breakdown during which the band members yell improvised phone dialogue over Michelin's slap bass -- have the Advertisements ever considered supplementing their commercial homages with original material? "No way, man," says Whipple, a small smile teasing the corner of his mouth. "That would be selling out.

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