*Originally posted 6/27, reposted because of technical difficulties.
There is no doubt: we live in an overwhelmingly, maddeningly poppy era in music. Starting arguably with the popularization of American Idol, writing — nay — PERFORMING three to four minute glorified fast food jingles has become synonymous with success in our country, probably to an extent wherein it’s succeeded even movie star allure. In a way this is ironic, since pop music has sucked so bad since say maybe Madonna’s “Ray of Light” (with the notable exception of a few songs like “Happy,” et. al.)
And indeed, many were sounding the death knell of “indie” as early as the late ‘00s, eight years ago from when I’m writing this (whereas few would argue that today listening to or championing indie music is to a certain extent stigmatized), one attempted indictment being that the formula had become simple — a jangly guitar and some sensitive lyrics sung with a quirky or oddball voice. In fact, nothing could be further than the truth. There were bands like Beach House which were like bona fide psych-pop in the vein of The Mamas and the Papas. right across and through the gamut to Brooklyn’s bionic Battles, a band making percussive and tribal “rock” with, amazingly, a couple synths and fu**ed-vocal effects, but no drum machines. It seemed like more a left-brain denigration of an artistic style than a right-brain.
But then, all things are subject to reduction, to oversimplification, and in Palehound’s case, an east coast band signed to Champaign, Illinois’ Polyvinyl, what I see is the attempt to get by on QUIRK alone, wrongly exempting themselves from the obligation of technical skill. I’d find it highly unlikely that the band wouldn’t have glanced upon certain books like Our Band Could Be Your Life wherein I think Mark Arm says something along the lines of “You almost have to be good IN SPITE of your technical skill.” Well, it’s funny how a tenet which functions in 1988 can be garishly defeating in 2017 — this stuff is so played out it should come with a complimentary set of pogs.
Opener “Hunter’s Gun,” which is about as explosive as a pea shooter, starts with what cokemachineglow.com would have called a “cheap sounding drum machine.” Actually, they used that term to refer to Beach House’s album Devotion, which happens to captivate at least me with the vocals and feature the influence list of some seasoned masters. The only influence I hear in Palehound is that Ellen Kemper sounds a bit like a female Conor Deasy of The Thrills (and not to say she sounds masculine, she just has that same sort of retarded, meaning slow, bent toward over-anunciation). Now, this isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself, but come on, this music is just desperately lacking in meat and muscle (I can tell they think they’re really edge because they get more abrasive than Best Coast with some string bends on “Carnations”).
“Room” is more mind-bendingly boring pop — the type of thing you just know isn’t going to have a key or tempo change, two things which were once staples in rock, even in the ‘90s. The only use I’d have for this music would be that of a metronome — that and maybe diagnosing a mental condition of a girl who needs to go play with her teddy bear collection some more.