Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lil' Indie Round-Up: The Rakehells, Vita Ruins, Mobile Wash Unit, Brothers At Sea

The Rakehells- Please Yourself Or The Devil Himself

I am convinced that, if not for Jack White dubbing one of his bands The Raconteurs, this band would not be called The Rakehells. I'm convinced of this because The Rakehells are such unimaginative, boring, and forgettable modern rock bar band-esque dudes that I can't believe they would think to pick out such an obscure and old timey name on their own.

This is the sort of band that inevitably gets words like “attitude” and “sneer” and “Mick Jagger” thrown at it when journalists attend their live shows. This, despite the fact that they sound nothing like the Rolling Stones at all. Ten years too late to jump on the Strokes/White Stripes garage rock revival of the early 00s, The Rakehells only work in a culture of drink specials and cheap beer, of poor judgment, of people who aggressively worry about whether a band “rocks” or not.

Well, The Rakehells do rock. I guess. 'Souls For Sale' certainly rocks, but it rocks in that “every song should be shorter than three minutes, every guitar should have some flaccid distortion on it, and every song should sound the fucking same” way that Green Day does. Meaning this is your Dad's idea of what passes for rock music in 2010, and it's no wonder he, to say nothing of you, dear reader, prefers to tune in to the local classic rock station when listening to the radio. I'd rather hear a mediocre 70s era Rolling Stones deep cut or 'Welcome To The Jungle' for the umpteenth time than the Pro Tools sculpted tedium of 'Meat On A Stick.' On the bright side, this album helped me realize that 'hard rock' is essentially 'metal' for wimps and guys who are too old to still be considered metal but have kept the same haircut/facial hair since they saw Motley Crue on a Dr. Feelgood era tour.

Vita Ruins- A Day Without A Name

I swear I know the organ part on 'Godspeed To That Polytheist' from somewhere, to the point where I'm wondering if it's a sample or lifted directly, homage-style, from another song. Yeah, this is the most interesting way I could think of to introduce this album.

A Day Without A Name traffics in the sound of bands who came of age during the post-OK Computer, post-late 90s post-rock boom. Which means, what, exactly? Well, it means they sound like The Doves or any number of other ostensibly guitar-based indie rock bands who use post-rock atmospherics and electronic flourishes to morph their music, and thus sounding less like the Blur of 'Song 2' and more like the Blur of 'Battle.' Maybe Vita Ruins are a bit more intense than 'Battle.' The singer's voice is permanently wrapped in some kind of mid-fi distortion that does nothing and doesn't need to be there. So, I guess, you could also say: a less memorable and enjoyable version of 'Battle.'

I don't intend for this review to be so short, but I simply can't think of a lot to say about Vita Ruins or this album. I feel as though I've reviewed a half dozen of these bands for the Lil Indie Round-Up column over the years, and there is a now epidemic level of faceless competency to A Day Without A Name. If you want more of the same, here it is.

Mobile Wash Unit- Tent

Dig out your copy of Tigermilk by Belle & Sebastian and put on 'Electronic Renaissance.' Do you find yourself wishing that the band had taken up this sort of style instead of continuing on their twee-pop/indie-pop trajectory? At the same time, dig out your copy of Emperor Tomato Ketchup by Stereolab and put on pretty much any of the songs. Do you find yourself wishing the band wasn't as experimental and had a male singer?

If you answered “yes” to either of these scenarios, then you'll probably like Mobile Wash Unit. Tent is the sound of a band attempting to reconcile jangly guitar based pop/rock with retro synth-pop/electro-pop. The more clubby/danceable tracks like 'Koko' wouldn't sound out of place in some Manhattan hipster bar, while something like 'Restart', which sounds like a caffeinated Interpol, could slip into a coffehouse's playlist and not offend anyone.

There's really nothing wrong with this album in conception or execution. It is so earnest and digestible, all the potential hard edges and personality having been sanded off and scrubbed clean, that it is like the music equivalent of lettuce. Good for digestion, not enough there to offend or delight anyone.

Brothers At Sea- This Is A Redemption Melody EP

I'm sorry to not get to the music right away, but I'm curious why it is exactly that people romanticize the notion of really young bands who choose to pursue their music career rather than go to college. This isn't the 1960s anymore, and it's no longer cool or respectable, at least to me, to think that you really have anything interesting to add to music, or any artform, at age 20. Hell, I remember being 20 and thinking I was so sophisticated and intelligent, but if I dig out my writing from that period, I recoil in self-loathing.

Admittedly, it would be one thing if said band of 20 somethings were doing anything remotely new or interesting with their music. Bob Dylan worked as a young artist because he was so idiosyncratic and ahead of his time. Some young dude singing old Woodie Guthrie songs about the 20s and 30s politics was a true curio for its time, and there has always been something about Bob Dylan that makes you think he has an old soul.

A band like Brothers At Sea is practically the opposite. They sound exactly like every other post-Weezer, post-Incubus, post-Jimmy Eat World modern rock band, so when the press release reads “...might be oozing with radio-friendly appeal, but for once, this might not be a bad thing,” allow me to ask: when has having a sound that can be described as “radio-friendly” ever been a good thing? The kind of people who make such pronouncements are always A&R reps and faceless PR goons of record labels, and whose idea of what makes good music is everything that was popular five years ago and thus completely safe, proven, and, you guessed it, also radio-friendly.

This is all a long way of saying, I don't understand why bands who sound like this even bother with indie level promotion and labels. They should just keep plugging away and sending demo tapes to the big labels until they get signed and can have a moderate level of success after one of their songs ends up on the soundtrack of the next teen sex comedy.

No comments: