Were Goin Down in Flames
? For kicks, I thought you might enjoy reading a couple old press-release headlines I found while cleaning out my e-mail. To wit:
Monday, April 17, 2006, 9:49 a.m.
FORMER DRUG DEALER REACHES #1 ON BILLBOARD CHRISTIAN ALBUMS CHART
Those Christians. They’re always bragging about how cool they used to be.
Monday, April 17, 2006, 10:25 a.m.
JEWEL & ROB THOMAS UNITE FOR SUMMER TOUR
Clearly, an inherently funny concept.
Thursday, April 6, 2006, 10:17 a.m.
TUPAC SHAKUR IMMORTALIZED IN WAX AT WORLD-FAMOUS MADAME TUSSAUD’S LAS VEGAS
I guess what happens in Vegas really does stay in Vegas.
Just love that e-mail. Always good for a chuckle.
? Now, on to the subject at hand. Snakes on a Plane is coming. The intentional B-movie’s theme song — called “Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)” — is also out. (Hear it for yourself on — where else? — Myspace, at http://myspace.com/cobrastarship.)
Obviously, any song with a parenthetical subtitle is bound to be good. And indeed, after a couple listens in varying states of drunkenness, this song — by something called Cobra Starship — revealed itself as a true winner, in every sense. It’s not always easy to make good bad music, you know. If radio programmers around the country have a sense of humor, it could be the sleeper summer hit of ’06. (Sad to say, but it’s way catchier than the new Outkast single.) In fact, I think Cobra Starship could end up becoming a bona fide one-hit wonder, in the company of Survivor and Sysqo.
What’s good about this tune is that it is funny in the right ways: It’s not too funny. It’s not too serious. It’s not too ironic either. It’s just goofy. The song opens with dramatic strings (which I do believe were stolen from the Grainger ads on the AM radio — if you’re not familiar, no biggie, but if you know the Grainger ads, you may get a kick). Samuel Jackson shouts, “That’s it! I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!” The lyrics that follow — sung over a sort of garage/new wave/dance arrangement — have an undeniable Cobainism to them, which you must hear to grasp: “Times are strange/We’ve got a free upgrade for snakes on a plane/Fuck ’em I don’t care/Pop the cheap champagne, we’re goin’ down in flames.”
He’s on a plane, you know what I mean? Snakes on a Plane. He can’t complain. Snakes on a Plane. He can’t complain.
The song closes with a respectful and appropriate nod to the rap-metal era, as a really lame and hilarious Linkin Park–style white-boy rapper does his thing. Thumbs up!
Cobra Starship performs Wednesday, August 16, at the Key Club.
? As everyone knows, the trouble with most bands today, in any genre, is that they suffer from an epidemic commonly referred to as They Suck.
That’s a given. But then you also have these groups of bands who all suck together, in similar ways, in the same neighborhoods, all around the world.
Take Silver Lake, for example. There’s always good and even astonishingly fantastic bands bumping around the Silverlake Lounge, Spaceland, et al. But in terms of stylistic movements, the hood can at times be prone to cycles of dodgy faddishness that seem to lead to . . . well, nowhere in particular, really. Usually, some dreary backyard after-party.
You might blame the scene’s troubles on drugs, and you might be right. You could blame it on KROQ, and you could be right there too. (Time was, the city’s most powerful rock station championed the best local bands. Duh.) You could blame it on God, the mystery of history; the unknowable forces that govern the ebbs and flows of artistic output across decades and geography, resulting every so often in pockets of mutational genius in the oddest places, and never where you’d expect.
In any case, I think you’ll relate when I say that I have a long-standing love/mistrust relationship with the Silver Lake scene. “Scene” — where do people even get off using that word? There is no “scene.” Not in L.A. In L.A., there is nothing but an infinite collection of overlapping and sometimes concentric circles.
Which brings me to the Bedroom Walls. Their new record is pretty good! It’s called All Good Dreamers Pass This Way (Baria Records). This band is an established Eastside/Silver Lake type of band, and on paper (and even in reality), they hit all the collectively agreed-upon marks of “quality” that seem to currently dominate a certain excessively tasteful cul-de-sac on the Eastside. They’ve got the vague shoegazer influence. Better yet: They’ve got the “shoegazer + precious emo vocals - rock & rolldanger” math down pat. They’ve got the baby-xylophone thing, and the reverby nocturnal slide guitar and the horns. Even Nic “Land Rover LR3” Harcourt likes ’em. Shit. On paper, they should be unbearable. But fuck it, I don’t care; they’ve got a few melodies. It’s amazing what a little melody can do.
That’s what I like about the Bedroom Walls. As much as they fit the S’Lake template, they also shrug it off habitually: Where some of their contemporaries almost seem to fetishize a lack of hooks — as if resisting pleasure could make music more virtuous or important — the Bedroom Walls aren’t ashamed to go for the harmonic sweet spot when it presents itself. Thank you.
Likewise, they don’t pull punches lyrically: The first song, “In Anticipation of Your Suicide,” is sonically soft & snuggly, but lyrically, not so much: “You say you’ve laughed enough/Your closet’s stuffed with last year’s blues/But you know by summertime/Your suicide’s just last year’s news . . .” I think Elliott Smith would get that, and like it. (I always imagine that suicides are sitting on a cloud somewhere in the ether of All-Being, feeling somewhat foolish about what they did, and shooting spitballs at all of us who would romanticize it.) And I do think it’s specifically about Smith. You can feel and smell the wistful rolling hills and slanting sunlight of Echo Park, where he lived/died, in this music; there’s no hiding it. This isn’t rock & roll, that’s for sure. But as languid as it may sound, it is anything but lazy. And that makes all the difference in the world.
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