You know a trend has reached its nadir when it inspires progressively lamer bands to jump on the bandwagon. This was made clear when the Bravery, a Brooklyn act (with emphasis on the word act) whose mascara-and-leather fashion sense steers toward Good Charlotte, launched itself into the mediasphere with a shitty self-titled debut, an unearned mention in Rolling Stone's "Ten Artists to Watch," and TV appearances that found Mohawk-branded lead singer Sam Endicott preening like he's Billy Idol. They're so bad even Rolling Stone backtracked and posted a column online dissing them.
The Bravery is a sign that the whole dance-rock thing, the whole indie-rockers learning how to dance thing, has bottomed out. Right now I've got discs by Elkland, Supersystem, the Caesars, Maximo Park, Louis XIV (actually I didn't even bother to request that one from the record label), the Golden Republic, the Kaiser Chiefs, LCD Soundsystem, Bloc Party, and too many others to remember swirling around in my CD pile like shit in a toilet bowl. One or two of them, such as LCD Soundsystem's long-awaited debut, are okay. Most of them suck.
Probably the most disappointing of the lot is Bloc Party's Silent Alarm. Given the serious critical acclaim this London quartet has received, including from this publication, one would expect their debut to be the greatest thing since Wonder Bread. But it's just not that good. It flails and flounders around predictably syncopated beats that can't mask the songs' lack of strong melodies or hooks. Worse is the group's dependence on said syncopated beats, like a metronomic dance track that drones on and on. Innovative? Lyrically, maybe, but musically, forget about it. They're about as New Wave as the Greg Kihn band.
I guess, in the end, you can blame it on the Killers, whose "Somebody Told Me" took the dance-rock sound into the mainstream when the Rapture faltered. Or maybe you could trace the whole trend back to Le Tigre's "Decepticon," which sounded so fresh and innovative when it was first released back in 1999. Le Tigre has as much to do with all this dance-fashion-rock nonsense as Gang of Four; at their best, both bands encompass a range of styles, not just a formula.
Paradoxically it was only two years ago when electroclash was all the rage among the cool kids, and Le Tigre was thought to be the quintessential electroclash act. I remember when, every single fucking week, you could hear "Decepticon" or (my favorite) Mount Sims's "How We Do" at Revolver and Poplife. I hated those songs, but now that the electroclash craze is dead, I've actually begun to appreciate them again. I probably listen to electro-techno artists such as Ellen Allien, Mathew Jonson, DJ Hell, Crosstown Rebels, and others more than anything else right now.
Who among the rock idiots blowing up now will stand the test of time? It makes me wonder if people listen to all of this sellout crap because it's "the new sound" or because they actually enjoy it. After all, it's supposed to be about good music, right?
And please don't give me that shit about good music not existing anymore. That's the excuse punk rockers give when they can't stand hip-hop (and, naturally, end up complaining about how New Times covers hip-hop too much); when hip-hoppers can't stand progressive house artists such as Paul Van Dyk because "it isn't soulful and is too repetitive"; when progressive house fans can't bear to hear deep house producers such as Louie Vega because "it's too soft"; when house heads complain about mainstream hip-hop because "it's too materialist"; and so on. Nowadays everyone wants to theorize about the perfect "lifestyle music" for when you're driving your car, or hanging out at the club, or wigging out in your house, and if their buster-ass crew doesn't want to hear a certain kind of music, then fuck it, you won't listen to it. No one wants to celebrate what genuinely moves the mind and spirit.
Now that I've gotten that out of my system, I'd like to encourage any local band worth its salt to apply for the CMJ Music Festival. When I attended SXSW this year, I was surprised at the dearth of acts from South Florida; the only Miami artist who performed that week was Blowfly and his band (although I did see Dominic Sirianni from the Remnants and J from 10 Sheen strolling about).
I'm not advertising for anybody. I'm simply pointing out the obvious and passing along information: CMJ is a good opportunity to connect with industry people from around the country. Although it may not land you in Spin magazine or on Vice Records, it can bring you in contact with distributors, radio DJs, and journalists willing to spread word of your music beyond the swampland. The submission fee is $35, and you can apply through www.cmj.com or www.sonicbids.com. The application deadline is Monday, June 13.
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