Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Faux Paus

Brutal honesty is the calling card of this group as is a revealing kind of self-deprecating humor. Some might assume it's done in fun, as some kind of post-modern critique, but since they're a bit on the simple side, don't give them more credit than they're due.

A running joke revolves around the band's album and single titles, which are almost always an exercise in face value judgments---or to put it another way, what you see is exactly what you get. For example, Faux Paus' debut album was named Please Don't Judge Us Too Harshly, which was then followed six months later by Not Quite as Bad as the Last One. The group's first introduction to the charts was, appropriately enough a single called "We're Getting There, I Swear."

The latest effort reveals the frustration within the group, titled Never Going to Work Out. The lead-off single is called "Creative and Artistic Differences", backed with "Ego Problems".

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Eisenwerk Orchestra of Power

Three German computer geeks set forward their sincere, yet nonetheless awkward synthesis of electronica and funk. Incorporating repetitive sampling with the booming brass sound of a live trombone and alto saxophone is no easy feat, and certainly beyond their combined limited musical talents. No one faults the group for the daring effort, but they simply aren't competent enough to pull off the endeavor.

Karl Reiss, the band's de facto leader, periodically switches back and forth from his console to strap on a fretless bass, laying forth a few mellow grooves, as the song demands. Most performances are punctuated by meaningful, but often incoherent vocalizing in English, clearly not the group's first language. What results is a kind of English/German hybrid that ironically is understood well by neither native English speakers, nor native German speakers.

Avoid at all costs.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nickajack All-Stars

Attempting to expand country music to the latte drinking, yuppie set, Nickajack All-Stars certainly have their work cut out for them. The group suffers from a lack of hick cred among the traditional country music listening set and a total dearth of interest among hipsters and young professionals. With the support of the former, the band could play at the Grand Old Opry and be adored by pickup truck driving, tobacco chewing, blue-collar workers. With the support of the later, their twangy vocals and unusual lyrics could find a kind of irony-drenched popularity. Sadly, they fail on both counts.

Hits include, "The Blue Blue Sky of my Skye Skye Vodka", "My Prius Just Died", and "Whole Foods Blues."

Monday, July 14, 2008


Geek rock at its finest. Each of the four members holds a phD from a prestigious Ivy League school and had every intention of ending up in a reputable profession, but found that music was a more lucrative endeavor. Their album The Hour of Not Quite Literature showcases the group's disarmingly simplistic interlocking keyboard, bass, rhythm guitar, and drum parts. Their tired take on roots rock shines through competently on exactly one song, which everyone in the audience calls for by name.

Aside from that, every song is in the one of the same three keys that guitarists find the least challenging. Despite this, the band scored an unexpected number fourteen hit in the charts with "Phonological and Lexical", a song that explores English grammatical terms. It was quickly latched onto by secondary school educators in an effort to try to seem hip while at the same time teaching high school students the beauty of adverbs, prepositions, and modifiers.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sharpsburg Prairie Dog

Beloved among aging baby boomers, Garrison Keilor, and NPR listeners, Sharpsburg Prairie Dog's take on bluegrass utilizes two warbling female vocalists who sing carefully crafted high-harmony duets, an electrified banjo, a fiddle player, and a washboard bass. Although every song sounds completely identical to the one that came before, no one seems to notice or care.

Members of an Americana, back-to-basics music movement which makes no pretenses towards originality in songcraft or performance, Sharpsburg Prairie Dog instead tries to emulate early twentieth century folk and to sound exactly like Appalachian hillbilly music. The intent may have been to revisit a long forgotten musical form, whose original practitioners have long since passed away, but instead of pushing the genre forward, the result produced is a kind of willful inertia--each song part and parcel of an endlessly repetitive nostalgia piece that everyone professes their love for out of a desire to seem trendy and on the cutting edge, but no one really cares much for in reality. In reality, it's just white noise, albeit a trendy kind of white noise.