Four Bands Richard Nixon Would Have Hated:
Reflections on the Nature of Reality

It's summer and attention spans are short.  Thus, brief reviews of four bands lurching blindly down the same dark alley:

THE PROXIES  

A four-person combo that has never shown up for a gig.  Instead they send friends who arrange the stage with life size cardboard cutouts of the band playing life-size cardboard cutout instruments.  The cutout musicians have speakers in their fake mouths and microphones in their fake ears.  Using futuristic technology, each member of the band stages his or her entire performance from his or her respective home; they can hear the crowd and they even take requests.  It's mildly disquieting to stand on a dance floor, gazing up at a stage populated by cardboard musicians.  It reminded me of the Westword Music Showcase, but on a smaller scale.   The music is droning, rolling, moaning.  The crowd loves the show. Especially the end when they can all huddle around the drummer's cutout (she's the hot one) for photos.  

Quote: "We're thinking about mailing ourselves on a tour."

Postmodernity:  8 out of ten
Ironic or Sincere?  Ironic.
Can you dance to it?  No.
Who would pay for this?  People with six months to live.
How long before it gets old?  Six months.

ZILCH  

An exercise in nostalgia for people with bad memories, Zilch is less a band than a torture device.  The group uses audio recordings of canceled television programs as a soundtrack for a puppet show.  The power trio hide behind a cardboard puppet stage and re-enact sitcoms and dramas with sock puppets.  The concert I saw included two episodes each of:  ALF, Eight is Enough, and Thirtysomething, including commercials.  The show lasted three and a half hours.  Despite the occasional moment of hilarity, (a sock puppet pretending to give birth to a watermelon as ALF explains to Andy where babies come from) the show wears thin quickly (a sock puppet squirting silly string into the crowd nine times in forty-five minutes) and then becomes a sad rehashing of something no one should have cared about in the first place (yawn).  Taken from a perspective of social commentary, however, it functions like a Warhol painting.  Not much to look at, little to say, and far, far too expensive (In this case, cover was $5).  

Quote: "We're speaking directly to the people who won't listen to us."  

Postmodernity: 10 of ten.
Ironic or Sincere?  Ironic.
Can you dance to it?  No.
Who would pay for this?  Close friends.
How long before it gets old?  Three more days.

THE SIMULACRUMBS  

Using a video camera, this band films itself practicing.  They bring a projection TV to their gigs and show an hour of their rehearsal on a screen behind the empty stage.  Meanwhile, the in-the-flesh Simulacrumbs, dressed in tuxedoes, mingle with the crowd, selling cocktails and telling jokes. The sound quality of the videos is pretty bad, but the combo knows how to milk a good beat.  They lyrics are muddled by the poor sound quality but the ear candy syllables make up for sonic deficiencies.  The video-taped band leaps about, breaks a piñata, and wrestles one another.  Dated editing equipment gives the film a pre-MTV promo video feel.   It's in the crowd that the group comes into their own.  With the video playing the background, the Simulacrumbs crack jokes, light cigarettes; tell everyone how nice it is to have such a wonderful audience.  At one point, the band jumped on stage in front of the video screen and lip-synched their own performance.  Well-practiced deconstructionism.  

Quote: "We're lucky.  Most bands never see themselves play live."  

Postmodernity:  Seven out of ten.
Ironic or Sincere?  Both, and funny to boot.
Can you dance to it?  Yes.
Who would pay for this?  Me.
How long before it gets old?  Two years. 

REHABILITATED JONES AND THE EMPTY BOTTLES  

Led by a mono-browed accountant posing as a hayseed, Rehabilitated Jones and the Empty Bottles play country music just like George Jones.  The songs sound like George Jones, the crowd wears George Jones T-Shirts, but GEORGE JONES ISN'T THERE!  It's a wonderful show.  They're spot-on perfect.  The band has shed its collective ego and donned the mask of the memory of a country singer who isn't quite dead.  Unfortunately, every time I hear "The Race is On" I think of the Bob Weir.   Rehabilitated Jones and the Empty Bottles have a great name but I'd prefer an Elvis impersonator.  

Quote:  "If we could be George Jones, we would."  

Postmodernity?  Chartreuse on a scale of Recliner to Karate
Ironic or Sincere?  Sincere.
Can you dance to it? Yes.
Who would pay for this?  Shut-ins.
How long before it gets old?  Twenty years ago. 

That's it.  Now eat some ice cream and go to the pool.

--Strapping Danforth, June, 2002

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