The Rich Girls Are Weeping

25 July 2006

It seems like I don't rant in this space as much as I used to, but something today has totally sent me over the edge. I think it was the last two bands that tried to friend me on myspace, and it got me thinking about other things, namely:

I'm almost 100% sure Spiraling could be huge (50,000 friends on Myspace can't hurt), and even make more than one good record. It's just so painful to listen to -- and I would have fallen for this kind of thing hook, line, and sinker five or six years ago. They're a basically a charmless, low-rent Fountains of Wayne-meets-Ben Folds Five kind of band. And frighteningly, I seem to be using that analogy a lot lately. I've also become completely intolerant of awkward and trite lyrics. What's funny is that Spiraling have an amazingly slick sound, but not the website to match, which is also something I'm intolerant of in this day and age.

For some reason, Spiraling makes me think of young Aussies Youth Group, who are doing a much better job of integrating the Coldplay + Phantom Planet aesthetic (and not just because of that "O.C." appearance, either) -- and they have a bitchin' rhythm section that makes the music actually interesting to listen to. And sometimes a simple lyric is better than a belabored, and too-clever-to-actually-be-clever lyric.

Which brings me to the incredibly disappointing new single from Ben Kweller, "Penny on the Train Track." His last album was a real letdown, and this track doesn't give me hope for his latest, due out next month. I've been following Ben since the Radish days (ha! remember that?), but I just don't feel like his songwriting is progressing -- or rather, that it's progressing in a direction that I'm comfortable with. I kind of feel the same way about his buddy Ben Lee, who's also suffering from some sort of lyrical identity crisis; however, the aforementioned Ben Folds is still going strong (I was totally charmed by his soundtrack for Under The Hedge...). On the other hand, they do fantastic work when they're all together...

The Bens -- Wicked Little Town (Tommy Gnosis Version, Hedwig and the Angry Inch cover)

Tracking the recent blog-0-sphere blowup for the sweet pop offerings of The Bicycles and Kite Flying Society has been interesting as well. The Bicycles seem to suffer from the same consistency issues that The Apples in Stereo did, mining that same aesthetic territory -- which is to say, there's two or three songs that are incredibly solid, and the rest are just plain bad with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. However, the top bloggers are all over this shit: Chromewaves, YANP, *sixeyes, Said the Gramophone -- all totally guilty for pushing quality bubblegum retro pop in the past, but they're slipping up here. (Frank at Chromewaves posted the band first, back in May, and I remember barely getting through the first 30 seconds before trashing "Longjohns and Toques" in disgust.) For instance, "B-b-b-bicyles" starts strong with a pseudo-White Stripes conceit -- which is to say, it doesn't even really reference 60's pop, but its antecedent, and then collapses in on itself and becomes unlistenable mush (where'd that hook go?) in the later verses -- never a good sign. "Gotta Get Out" is saved by the rollicking horns and generally stable trajectory -- it teeters close to crashing and burning, but manages to squeak through the finishline relatively unscathed. "Cuddly Toy" manages only to work on a very supervificial level because it's a cover; usually I'd be happy someone was covering The Monkees (who were covering, sort of, Harry Nilsson, who wrote the song) with so much vivacity, but the presentation is so artfully constructed that it sucks all the life out of that charming song.

Meanwhile, I absolutely hated Kite Flying Society (ref. Rushmore) on the first few listens, but I'm slowly coming around. The outright Shins-iness was what really turned me off at first, but really, deep down, I'm a sucker for this kind of thing when done well -- that is, delicate, sugarspun songs on acoustic guitar with spiralling backing vocals. And when a band specifically lists Harry Nilsson's The Point as an influence, I'm pretty much lost. I hope nice things happen for these kids, because they sure have the potential. See, I'm not always mean...

Harry Nilsson -- Me and My Arrow
(file corrupted)

And, I really should let you know this right now: I really don't like The Knife, never have -- and it's been confusing me for years. Am I missing something? Since the rise of the most recent buzz, I've been trying for months to figure them out. Remixes help, especially that new Ratatat one of "We Share Our Mother's Health," but feel like I'm missing something major here. Can someone clue me in? Or is the emperor really not wearing any clothes, and no one wants to say anything about it?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Harry Nilson track has got a beep and a skip at the top of it....repost? Or is it me? Am I screwed? Is it all over? Is this the end????

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 9:56:00 PM  
Anonymous frank said...

for the record, I never actually endorsed the Bicycles. On disc, they're so goddamn saccharine that they make me want to fight panda bears. However their live show has a certain demented appeal, particularly in front of a hometown crowd. And they get some points from me for having a cute she-drummer. But I am most certainly not in any way pushing them as any sort of "next big thing". For the most part, they make my teeth hurt.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger merz said...

I agree I really have not ever taken to The Knife and don't understand all the praise they get.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 10:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Ryan Catbird said...

I could rattle off 10 current "Blogger-Approved" bands that are cases of "the emperor has no clothes," but I don't consider The Knife amongst them. And I'm not even a fan, I just think their genre isn't one I'm into.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 11:28:00 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Gosh Cindy, I'm as big a hater as anyone. (Who am I kidding? Bigger, much bigger!) But I love The Knife with all my blackened little heart. Bicycle, Kite whatever whatever ... who cares?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 12:06:00 AM  
Blogger GiL said...

i think that
if it needs to be explained
then it means you won't get it.

just leave them be
don't worry
it happens to everybody

for instance i don't get the beatles
sure they were interesting
but i just don't get them.

so don't worry, that's life.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 2:57:00 AM  
Blogger cindy hotpoint said...

Frank: Oh, my bad! I didn't check the entry where you posted the track, and of course, I remember now that you posted it with a caveat.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 2:37:00 PM  
Blogger cindy hotpoint said...

There is indeed a flaw on the track, I'll post another version tonight -- sorry about that!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 2:38:00 PM  
Blogger cindy hotpoint said...

But ... but ... why should I like The Knife. Someone point me to some good tracks. And what the hell is that genre anyway? I don't know what to call it other than 'annoying Scando-electronic noise that gives me instant pinpoint tension headaches."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 2:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you're like me, the only track you're gonna like is that one that Jose Gonzalez covered.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 7:07:00 PM  
Blogger SL said...

'You Take My Breath Away' is the only Knife song I'm really able to enjoy.

I have to agree about those other groups. Sometimes I think the top blogs feel that if they band together that nobody will call them on the carpet for some of this stuff. i dunno. maybe they just like music that people like you and I think is crummy.

Thursday, July 27, 2006 4:42:00 AM  
Anonymous mark said...

thank you soooo much for posting that hedwig and the angry inch cover. it's totally made my afternoon.

and i thought i was the only one that just felt irritated by the knife (other than heartbeats...which to me at least had some sort of ultra superficial summer gap commercial appeal, which is actually sometimes convenient for ... that sort of day). i tried and tried and then i realized i was trying in vain, and that was that.

Friday, August 25, 2006 4:38:00 PM  

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