I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, or astonished — whatever word you want to use. After all, Sub Pop Records has always, since day one, forged their own identity with the basis in mind of image-eschewing — of attempting to appear something very much other than what they truly are. They’ve come up with the humble name for their offices of “Sub Pop World Headquarters” and they used to regularly, publicly tout their own aspirations for “world domination,” this despite basically always being independent and often in their early days being almost comedically close to total bankruptcy.
Chris Cornell, who’d put out at least one album on Sub Pop (according to wikipedia) and obviously grafted the Seattle sound to enough of an extent to warrant Sub Pop founder Jonathan Poneman writing that blurb in the liner notes of A-Sides, has just passed away. Has anyone heard from Poneman or Bruce Pavitt, in the wake of the occasion? I’m pretty sure that neither attended his funeral, from what I recall out of what I read (although KEXP was much more vocal in commemoration). Of course, Sub Pop’s identity, having issued indie classics such as Fleet Foxes and Oxford Collapse – Bits, is very far removed from the thrashing, grinding early grunge days from which it sprung. Still, this very drastic alteration of identity, to an extent, bespeaks a dilution of said identity.
What seems to have been retained since the label’s embryonic days is the hit-making mentality and the vapid, reduced and pointless pop of Marika Hackman is a perfect example of such assembly line product. It uninterestingly blends the sonic fuzziness of semi-precocious early-‘10s acts like Ceremony and Hellogoodbye and a vocal very akin to Chan Marshall, as in a Chan Marshall who were to substitute world experience and artistic creativity with simple pompous self-contentedness.
I was so bored by 20 seconds into this album, the formulaic phrasing of “Boyfriend” in which I was able to easily predict exactly when the vocal would come in, that I considered not listening to the rest of the album. Second track “Good Intentions” is basically a carbon copy of “Boyfriend.” “Gina’s World” actually takes the tempo down a slight notch and unveils something sort of likening to jazz, or at least darker than the anticlimactic stoned pseudo-goofiness of her other reductive songs, but all of these tunes are sung in a voice so detached it makes Nico sound like Judge Judy. These songs are just absolutely maddeningly normal — there’s no anger, there’s no unusual or unorthodox lyrical wordplay, and the themes court romance with a noxious relentlessness giving off a vibe more closely aligned with animalism than the abstract, beautiful human sympathy of a Cat Power or a Beach House. “Violet” is overtly sexual and basically just disgusting. It’s like really Marika, you’re just talking to all of us here? Wow, I’m flattered, or more like just really bored.