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Sunday, November 19, 2006

More industry force-feeding.

Here' s the latest so-called "indie" band to not like: 120 Days from Norway.

They're pretty much the nazz with bloggers, NYC clubbers, after-party goers, and underfed hangers-on.

A certain pleasant-but-aggressive US publicity company recently took the band on as clients. Another artist on their roster is the unyieldingly hyped Lady Sovereign, which should tell you something. Also, they're on Vice, which might tell you something else.

I've been innundated with requests to review 120 Days for my other "outlets," to use a lame music biz phrase. Surely, I'm expected to just fall in line.

120 Days are touted as a "modern-day krautrock band," or some such nonsense. Fuck that. The sound like The Strokes with analog keyboards.

First of all, krautrock was a genre marked by idiosyncracies: most of the groups were wildly different from one another in process and result. Bands like 120 Days, on the other hand, seem to adopt whatever aesthetic happens to be in fashion.

For the original krautrockers -- a post WWII generation of defiant art-school dropouts -- it was important to work outside the realms of "polite" European classicism and borrowed American blues. Obsessed with rhythm and repetition, they drew inspiration from African music as well as emerging audio technologies. This sound later found its pop mark with New Wavers like the Talking Heads and "reformed" proggers such as Peter Gabriel and Robert Fripp. Bowie and Eno (who pretty much founded the New Wave) were both early champions.

Krautrockers sought to challenge preconceived notions of Germanic music, which had taken on some unfavorable associations. They traveled several sonic avenues, from the cold, motorik pulse of Neu! to the limber, pan-global grooves of Can. But some people assert that, with such a variety in sound, there is no real kratrock. This is a valid argument.

Anyway the little boys in 120 Days are about as far from Faust as a group can get. And that's what I told their publicist.

No matter -- they'll no doubt get more exposure than I could give 'em by rocking those sponsored parties for Microsoft's Zune MP3 player.

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Comments

jay

Nice anti-review! I took a listen to the mp3 on the blog site that was linked & it's pretty weak. And from the live pics on that site, I'm pretty sure they're actually just Hanson with Moogs.

Nice slam on Pitchfork as well; they need a good slap across the head every once in a while.

Donna

Surely they pale next to such local luminaries as Led Loco. Where oh where is the justice in this world?

casey

I'm not slamming the band as much as the industry that tries to sell every scruffy group of lads as the Next Big Thing. I don't think a band even deserves to be looked at in that light until they have at least three solid records under their belt. Then you know they might have some staying power.

Pitchfork provides plenty of useful information; I go to their site every day. But they wield a disproportionate amount of influence, and some of their scribes are more interested in being the next Lester Bangs than commenting on a record. The same goes for the enormously overrated Chuck Klosterman. Once in awhile he writes something amazing in a manner all his own. The rest of the time he's just farting in the wind to the applause of ironic hipsters.

The biggest problem I have with today's music criticism is that it's lazy. Writers too often just repeat whatever buzzword or catchphrase gets foisted on a band by their PR company. Hence "krautrock" and 120 Days. Frankly, they have more in common with Oasis.

There's nothing wrong with that. But don't shit in my hand and call it a Sundae.

Led Loco could wipe the floor with any of these scrawny Nordic prettyboys, and we all know it!

Kjetl

Dear Mr. Rea,
We do not understand the reason for your unkind comments towards our band and the representatives. We believe that we are bringing the sounds of classic Krautrock back to prominence and the value of our music is at least as high as the bands you mentioned from earlier times. Or is it that you are bitter towards Norwegians? While our home country may not be as hip as your Brooklyn, we are happy to believe that we are more than just another pretty face with analog synths. Do you not think our music has substances? We disagree. Please take away your bad comment about 120Days from the web.
-Kjetl
"120 Days"

M. Nordstrom

Burlington’s latest sludgecore/Afrocktrobeat quartet: Casey Rea’s Brooklyn.

Bad Brains’ Darryl Jennifer to play bass.

casey

Daryl Jennifer! That band sounds sweet!

But I love Norway, and Norwegians. I totally wanna go there. And I'm not joking. I've got a serious crush on Scandinavia, and have had for quite some time.

The same cannot be said about my feelings for Brooklyn.

Still, I don't like the band so much. But that's not really the issue. it's more a case of marketing, which blows every stylistic leaning completely out of proportion.

I'm gonna listen to the record again, though, just to see if it was merely the hype that put me off.

And Kjetl, if you're really in the band, understand that what I think about your music matters far less than how you feel about it.

But the post stays.


ben

How come their name is in English?
Do they sing in English?
When you abandon your native tongue to exploit foreign markets it's probably a good sign of hype seekers.
ben

Tanner

I think i'll stick to the classic kraut rock bands like Oneida, and Pharoah Overlord.

brookezilla

Let's be fair. The one thing we agree on is that we all hate Brooklyn (Williamsburg) hipsters. Agreed?

If only all pseudo-international conflict could be solved like this...

jay Blanchard

I have a Beacon's Closet t-shirt so I guess I can't badmouth Williamsburg.... :(

Casey, as much as I usually hate the classic "Best of 2006"-style lists, I would like to hear what your favorite albums of the year were, both new albums and recently discovered finds.

casey

I can't badmouth a place, just the "cool kids" driving rents up!

Man, I get so freaked out by year-enders. I have a terrible short-term memory for such stuff. Also, I have the tendency to get more excited about weird out-of-print stuff or forgotten gems than I do new music.

But I'll tty!

jay Blanchard

Personally, I'd rather hear about the "weird out-of-print" stuff than new stuff. I usually only fall in love with a few new albums each year, but I tend to get turned on to dozens of greater older albums throughout the course of the year. It would be great for you to post your list and then we could all post what we've been listening to.

Ari

This will go in my Top 10 Casey Rea Quotes of 2006 list:

"The rest of the time he's just farting in the wind to the applause of ironic hipsters."

Ah, the imagery.

Murf

Oh, man! Did I miss a good week to be hanging out on the solidstate front stoop.

I also get a ton of emails about 120 Days from publicists. Not my thing. Love the country but not the band.

But, as you discussed, the wave of emails from publicists has ruined the chances of any decent band submitting their stuff to me via email. I pretty much bin all of them. Once in a while, I'll listen to their links but it's rare.

Unfortunately, having talked to some other music bloggers, enough of them pay attention to the promo emails to keep the publicists thinking that it's a winning idea. At the NEMO Music Festival blogger panel, someone asked how they could get us to listen to their band. My response was, "Well, when I ask my friend what he's been listening to lately, you need to have him say your band's name."

It initially got a giggle from the crowd but then they seemed a bit annoyed at the idea of how much harder that is then just sending out a blast email with 1,500 people on the distribution list.

Donna

Gee whiz, paid publicists will say that their clients are the best thing since sliced bread, when sometimes they're not! As much as this revelation may anger you, before you call a perfectly decent band "little boys" "not to be liked," you might want to think about how low 7D sets the bar with regular fawning reviews of local dreck. I mean, 120 days are no Kraftwerk, but surely you recognize that they're better than some local barista making plinky plonk on their laptop, burning it onto a CDR and selling it down at Pure Pop?

Tanner

Yeah who do these fucking "baristas" think they are anyway! making their "plinky plonk", pressing their, "cd-r's" getting support from their "community"...what a bunch of douchebags.

(i can think of 3 burlington bands, right off the top of my head, that have more "kraut" than 120Days.)


Donna

Ah, see, I thought music reviews were supposed to be something resembling honest assessments of musical efforts, not puff pieces masquerading as "support from the community." Thanks for clearing that up.

And if you'll name those three bands for me, I promise to buy a copy of each of their CD(R)s the next time their drummers deliver my pizza.

casey

Amen, Tan-man.

Yeah, publicists are paid. So am I.

But I've heard far more interesting CD-R releases local and otherwise than a lot of the assembly-line shit that comes down the industry pike.

My musical worldview is fairly libertarian; bands can do whatever they like, and their agents can market it however they see fit. But somebody has to call bullshit every once and a while, or else there's no difference between the "underground" and the prefab stuff that currently chokes the airwaves.

AS far as 7D setting the bar low, I have to disagree. Some stuff has to be considered in respect to the environment in which it's created. I personally try to respond to any album on its own terms. I've written plenty of "negative" notices about local releases. If I champion certain area efforts, it's because they possess qualities that I believe are worthy of praise.

The 120 Days record, upon repeat listens, fails to measure up in any significant way regardless of the hype surrounding it.

That's my opinion, anyway.

But if one were to go back and read my original post and subsequent comments, one would see that I am only decrying the echo chamber so prevalent in mainstream criticism. The fact that 120 Days don't personally appeal to me is secondary.

I hate fake blues, funk and jam bands too, so there.

I can only hope the baristas continue to concentrate more on creating art than appealing to the fickle tastes of Hype Lords.

But we all probably have more important things to do than arguing about this. Maybe it's creating compelling music and releasing it on CD-R.

greg

i make plinky plonk on my laptop.
its fun.
i should take some of my cds over to pure pop.
good idea.

Donna

"somebody has to call bullshit every once and a while"

Thank god the common man has you to put a reality check on all of these press releases each of us gets every day. It's once in a while, by the way.

The 99% of music journalists who seem to be fine with mediocrity put some kind of spin on their writing. Some of them are influenced by publicists to say that merely decent stuff is great. And some say that every piece of crap recorded in a bedroom by someone they might run into the next day is a masterwork. I find the latter more offensive as a reader, especially when said scribe inexplicably starts slagging the decent but "overhyped" bands as if they've just discovered that there's no Easter Bunny. But hey, maybe that's just me.

casey

Thanks for catching my poor grammar. I'm not accustomed used to proofing my posts at 12 a.m. with a belly full of wine. Need a job?

Oh wait — that was Murph's mistake. Shame on you, man!

"And some say that every piece of crap recorded in a bedroom by someone they might run into the next day is a masterwork."

I like pristinely recorded albums. And I try to avoid most everybody. So neither statement applies to me. (I don't think, anyway).

Sure, it's obvious to point out that bands are over-hyped. But that doesn't mean I'm gonna stop doing it. Political bloggers write about how our leadership is overrun by corporate stooges with no concern for civil liberties.

That's pretty obvious too. I'm glad someone bothers to point it out, though.

I think the real issue here is that you have a different aesthetic, Donna. That's perfectly OK with me. At the end of the day, people will make up their own minds about what they like to listen to. Might as well check out as many records as you can. Maybe you'd actually like some of these "bedroom recordings."

But I'm curious about one thing — you said "all of these press releases each of us gets every day." Who are you working for, scribe?

Anyway, thanks for the comments — particularly about usage. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Kjetl

I am happy to see that our band 120Days has caused such a vibrant conversation in your community. I am thankful to Donna and others who are supporting good musical efforts by bands such as ours. We too have made bedroom laptop music in Norway and are now enjoying the success of your fruits. We wish that critics like Mr. Rea would not judge us by the publicist we have chosen but by the quality of the music we made. 120 Days is a band with a vision that is very strong and bright. Won't you please come to the next performance near your home and make judgements? The important things are that we are speaking openly about music in todays world. Thank you for your support
Kjetl,
120 Days

casey

Well said, Kjetl.

Thank you for your comments. I hope to get the chance to hear your band live. Then I'll "make judgements." Oh, and sorry I called you "little boys." You're certainly old enough to drink, right?

Donna

"Sure, it's obvious to point out that bands are over-hyped. But that doesn't mean I'm gonna stop doing it."

Ignoring for a moment the mind-boggling analogy between a publicist that's hyping a band and Halliburton et.al. who are destroying our country - pointing out that a band is over-hyped is a safe, but uninteresting, way to fill column inches. Saying that a band is "not to be liked" because they're over-hyped is just wrong.

"you said 'all of these press releases each of us gets every day.'"

Yeah, and I said that Led Loco are "luminaries." It's called sarcasm.

casey

To clear it up: A band is not to be liked 'cause they're dull. That's OK. It only reaches a level of annoyance when you see them in dozens of media outlets being touted as the saviors of rock, or what-have-you. Then there's the barrage of PR requests touting the same line.

Also, I don't consider this blog to be "column inches." It's more of a clearinghouse for my personal ruminations on music. But I think I've got a pretty good grasp on sarcasm, thanks.

We've all made our points, I'd say. Complaining about the music industry isn't as productive as volunteering at a soup kitchen. But it's surely more fun.

Donna, if you'd like to try your hand at writing music reviews, feel free to send some samples to: [email protected]

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