This is a very hard review to write.
"Why," you ask. Well, in order to answer that i have to
discuss (and i'll try and keep it short) some of the soul-searching
i have been doing of late. All related, ultimately, to Black
Rebel Motorcycle Club.
I spend too much time reading messages posted on various Internet
listservs. Probably way too much time, but i guess that we all
need to have hobbies. Anyway, the point is that Black Rebel
Motorcycle Club are being hailed as "the saviours of shoegazer
music" and "the bext band since Ride broke up". They also just
got signed to a Major Label (Virgin) and seem destined to become
overproduced and overplayed radio fodder in a year or so.
That's all good and well. But you know how we die-hard music
geeks are: once something gets overplayed we start saying things
like "Oh, only U2's pre-War albums interest me."
Or, "R.E.M. lost their 'edge' when they signed to Warner." I
can list dozens of examples of common sayings i hear in reference
to bands who were once indie / underground and then busted out
into the mainstream. The term is "selling out" and it seems
to imply that making money is bad for the soul.
It might be -- i haven't figured that one out yet. But what
i have figured out is that a portion of this "backlash" is caused
by Marketing. Yes, that's right -- the same stuff that lets
all the 14 year olds in Iowa know what's cool pisses off the
true music geek. Personally, my thoughts go something like this:
"Dammit, i spend so much time in smokey dives in the middle
of the night and pouring through stacks in tiny cramped record
stores run by mind-numbingly rude people to know this type of
stuff, and then someone just up and TELLS everyone else. Screw
them -- work for the information or get away!"
And another problem is that marketing just doesn't tell the
14 year olds in Iowa, it also tells me what's cool. Well
screw you, ya Marketingoids, i exert effort to discover what's
cool, and i RESENT you trying to tell me.
And that's a big part of the backlash, at least for me: Resentment.
I resent being told what to think. I resent being told what
to buy. And so i start hating certain things because i am told
to like them. Kind of funny when you think about it.
So people all over the Internet are telling me to like Black
Rebel Motorcycle Club. Okay. These same people (the more-serious-than-me
music geek buzz factor) told me to like The
Dismemberment Plan. And i do. They told me to like Sonic
Youth. I already did.
Now they tell me to like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, with
an addendum that soon many more people will be telling me to
like them. And, well, my intial response is that i don't like
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. There, i said it.
So the question that i have had to ask myself is: is my reaction
based on the afore-mentioned resentment backlash? If so, why
doesn't it kick in and keep me away from The Dismemberment Plan?
The answer here lies in what i have termed "the excitement
to buzz ratio". You see, there is at least some buzz for every
band. And there is some excitement caused by seeing any band
live. There is some ratio wherein excitement at the music exceeds
buzz, and that ratio makes me like the band. (Dammit, i hate
it when my life comes down to calculus!) So a band with a lotta
buzz (like Black Rebel Motorcyle Club) really has to knock my
socks off in concert.
And they didn't. Oh, they weren't bad. In fact, i would say
that they are a talented band with some potential and some interesting
songs. They are not the saviors of any type of music.
Let me describe them musically for a moment (heck, it is
the ostensible reason for this review, so why not!)
They are a three piece. Each member has big messy hair and
tight black clothes, making them look like three refugees from
Automatic-era Jesus And Mary Chain. They have
really nice looking hollowbody guitars/basses (they are on a
Major after all) and lots and lots of HUGE amps (amps that looked
out of place on the little stage at The Earl).
Sonically they have powerful rhythm. I mean powerful. That
drummer played the heck out of his kit, and i think i have to
say that he is one of the most talented drummers i have seen
in a while. The bass played high-pitched melodies a la Joy Division.
The guitar was GODAWFUL LOUD and varied between power chords
and intense overdrive. Both the guitarist and the bassist sing,
although with the volumes they were performing at i could not
sense a difference between the two voices.
Musically their songs remind me, for the most part, of The
Rolling Stones. Songs heavy on the bass and drums with lyrics
SCREAMED about love and girls. Not that this is bad -- i adore
The Stones. Some people may want more intellectual content in
their music, but i don't think this is a slam against anyone.
Of the performance, i think that garage rock fans would have
had a blast. And there were two or three songs where the chorus
and the phase shifter got put on the guitar and an honest shoegazer
moment was had. So not a bad show. Not a "genius" performance,
but not bad.
I enjoyed the show. I did not enjoy it as much as the hype
that i had heard led me to believe that i would, so i am left
disappointed. I wanted BRMC to knock my socks off. I wanted
to leave the show with one of their tunes burrowed so deeply
into my brain that i not even Blur's Song 2 could get
But that didn't happen. My ratio is off, so i am unimpressed.
Now for the ironic part: i think that, if i had never heard
of this band and had instead just showed up at The Earl to see
play (which technically they did, sometime after 1 AM, when
i was safely at home in bed thinking this stuff through) and
had found BRMC opening, i would be telling my friends how cool
they were. I would be talking to fellow Jesus & Mary Chain fans
about them. I would let my garage rocker friends know. I would,
in short, be creating the buzz. Now that's irony!
So what is my final recommendation to you? Well, if you like
Ride, The Rolling Stones, garage rock, or The Jesus And Mary
Chain you might want to check them out. They are good at that
type of stuff.
Then again, you could just wait until MTV starts cramming BRMC
down your throat! Because, i think, they are a tight enough
band, and an interesting enough band, that their music will
appeal to the 14 year olds in Iowa as soon as those 14 year
olds are made aware of how cool it is.
And in the end, i will get to tell my younger cousins, "Yeah,
well, i saw them back before their hits, in a tiny smokey dive
with a hundred other people in the middle of the night, so i
don't wanna go see them at The Stadium."