Gnarls Barkley

Even your emotions had an echo in so much space 

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

Is it just me or did 2006 fly by faster than recent years?  Where 2004 and 2005 had almost too much new music this past year has felt a bit quiet.  We started off with so much hope, but ended up coming in with not much for this year in popular music.

Think about it, earlier this year the song “Crazy” came out and lit a fire in the music world.  Not only for its unique sound, but for the fact that it was planted on the internet and the media had to react.  That may have precluded what was to come and what is in store for the future.

This year will be remembered for the two guys who sold www.youtube.com, the myspace.com trend, and even TV shows acknowledging the draw of the internet.  On VH1 (the 20+ crowds version of MTV) there was a show called Web Junk 2.0 highlighting the best stuff from the net.  The sad part was that many clips were former TV shows that people had found.  Even canceled programs began to appear on the internet in their entirety.  The future is becoming clearer every day and it is only time before the internet eclipses cable… And if you have ever had to deal with Charter locally this cannot happen soon enough.

Locally this year was not the juggernaut of years past as far as local album releases go.  Where once it could be expected that weekly album releases would be taking place, this year it was fewer and farther between.  Sure I might be biased as I get older, but the younger bands are just not picking up the slack in the bars.  This past weekend there was GB Leighton playing at the Tap Room.  While I didn’t attend, it is strange how he is still drawing a crowd when I can think back to seeing him play about 10 years ago.  He was a cover band then and still is.  Other notables that are playing are bands like Hairball, a retro rock thing or even Boogy Wonderland.   Then our big Duluth celebration to kick off 2007 is filled with more hair spray than a 1989 girl’s locker room.  Stagnation has hit the bar scene, with thirty-something (or close to it) bands controlling the nightlife.  Where are the 21 year old bands that bleed and believe in the mythology of music?   

Locally the scene is being dominated by The Very People, The Alrights, and a few other bands.  Look at even the winners for the MN Music Awards and you will see the near thirtysomethings dominating the accolades.  New Congress, TBT, and others are all not 21 anymore which could be a problem as the first gray hairs begin to pop up.  So does this mean that until you reach 30 that your music is not up to par? 

The problem that I see with bands at or near their 30s is that they are never satisfied with where they are.  (Not that the twentysomethings are happy either) They also are a bit arrogant and usually think they know everything.  At times the frustration of talking to them sucks the life out of articles I try to write.  The negativity and the “rockstar” attitude get old when someone is past 27.  My goal has always been to write articles to get people to go out and see the bands around town.  When I listen to a CD and the music is not of my “preferred genre” I don’t rip on it.  Instead of doing that I try to climb into the head of what a fan of that genre would think of the music being heard.  It was the only way I could write about new music objectively, but some people have the impression that I don’t rip local bands enough.  It is hard to rip on someone trying so hard about the art that they put so much time into.  So then I write an article that basically promotes the band hoping that people will show up for their performance.  The sad thing is that whatever level the band is at they read my articles and will find something they disagree with.  One band that was playing their first live show got upset that I misspelled a last name of a band member in their article.  The hard part was that I asked the band to write the names down and it was a fellow band member who misspelled it.  Later when you want to cover the band again they are broken up or you don’t feel like it now.  The bad taste gets in your mouth when you hear it enough.

There was even a large battle between a near thirtysomething drummer and myself over why bars charge $5 to get in when no people are in the bar.  He ranted about it for weeks and added to the sour taste in my mouth.  Eventually it appeared to me that he only used art to supplement his ego, but that could be said about a lot of musicians.

Now this isn’t just an article to be pessimistic about music this year, but 2006 has left a bad taste in my mouth.  When you go out and meet bands at many levels certain things stand out from bands that are moving up compared to ones going sideways or approaching meltdown.  Much of it has to do with timing, but a lot is more formulistic and could be repeated.  Look at TBT: 2 albums in 3 years, HUGE touring area, growing fan base, and recently acknowledged by the MN Music Awards.  You can say what you will about them, but one of the most important aspects is the albums released and the touring.  If a band releases new albums there is something to write and talk about.  If they are gone on tour there are other people listening to their music and being exposed to their sound.  This is where that window of opportunity line comes in though. Your window is only open so long and you must hit while the iron is hot. 

With that criteria let’s look at a lower level band making its way up, The Alrights.  They have tons of new material and are really close to releasing a new album.  Recently they also have been touring and building a larger fan base.  Compile all that with a strong web site, record company, and endorsements; and you can see who is on the rise.

What we need though is for a new generation to take the torch.  The 21 year old who gets so drunk he forgets his own lyrics, and captivates a crowd.  It seems like the young live in the mythology that the thirtysomethings nostalgically look back on.  They wish they could go back and relive that moment of rockstardom.  Usually though, the thirtysomething bands just piss and moan about where they are, and what I write about them.