The music industry resembles an enormous pool of festering standing water, producing an unending supply of larval vermin. For each pest exterminated, a new thousand-strong swarm emerges. A weekly columnist can only swat so many irritants, but with the Compactor, I'll attempt to round up the most egregious unrecognized nuisances from the past month and exterminate them in brutally efficient fashion.
Tilly and the Wall uses a tap dancer instead of a drummer, a decision that solidifies the group's standing as the most cloyingly precious musical product ever exported from Emoha. Like the beating of The Tell-Tale Heart, this twinkle-toed percussion can drive listeners to madness: "Anything was better than this agony!" But while Poe's unnamed murderous narrator only had to contend with a rhythmic pulse that grew louder, louder, louder, Tilly and the Wall listeners must simultaneously endure a flamboyant parade of cutesy harmonies and other whimsical faggotry. The annoyance grows exponentially live, due to the band members' bizarrely animatronic stage smiles.
Tilly and the Wall assumes toddler persona + age-inappropriate pretentiousness = "adorable intellectual," when it actually approximates "moronic talking-baby movie." The group's latest record is unnamed, with the oval frame on its cover serving as both a surrogate title and a receptacle for fan-submitted designs. On Stupid Oval Album, this obnoxious glee club unveils an unbecoming new personality facet, attempting to reverse metamorphose from cutesy butterflies to attack caterpillars.
"Talk that, talk that smack/Watch yo', watch yo' back," singer Kianna Alarid babbles during the single "Pot Kettle Black." Musically, it's like "Mickey," with the hand claps replaced by tap clogs, or "Hollaback Girl," with -- well, it pretty much is "Hollaback Girl," same cloddish foot stomps, same awkwardly brandished urban slang, same laughable threats, more generic garage-rock guitar. "Too Excited" tortures listeners who somehow survived the opening galloping-hoof tap solo with more warnings (/I'm gonna burn this motherfuckin' party down.") All these profane attempts at intimidation feel pathetic, like a declawed kitten's impotent swipe.
When not posing as the world's gayest street gang, Tilly and the Wall reverts to its "Kidz Bop do The Mamas and the Papas" formula, the musical equivalent of spiking a diabetes patient's oxygen tubes with Pixy Stix. Actually, that album-cover oval looks a bit like the United Nations' blue circle symbol for diabetes. Perhaps Tilly and the Wall ruthlessly targets hyperglycaemic listeners for death with its nauseatingly sugary music, in an elaborate scheme even more diabolical than the band's recent menacing lyrical propaganda suggests.
For the past few years, I've actively campaigned for alternative stations to dislodge Bush from heavy rotation. People endured enough of this malformed grunge mutant in the mid-'90s: The interminable ballad "Gylcerine," the morbidly overinflated "Comedown," the daft pseudo-spiritual rant "Everything Zen." Sixteen Stone, the album that generated these stillborn singles, sold six million copies, but so fucking what? The first Candlebox record went quadruple platinum, but radio programmers are burying that memory to help survivors forget and to ensure future generations never discover those songs. Anyway, Bush released four post-Stone records that millions of people purchased but no one currently acknowledges. It's an abysmal discography, but with the exception of 1997's inexplicably existent techno remix collection Deconstructed, Bush never created anything as dismal as singer Gavin Rossdale's torpid solo debut Wanderlust.
Bush appropriated rock's instrumentation and volume in the most non-exhilarating manner imaginable. It was fake rock, a dimpled plastic boulder that was so hollowed it was almost weightless. By contrast, Rossdale dispenses with the rock façade, creating an atmospheric Nature Company sampler. Against this backdrop of glazed synthesizers and piped-in ambience, he conducts a solemn poetry reading. The result conjures images of an open mic night at a hipster café located within brain-damage range of a radiation leak. Guess which line isn't real:
- 1) The ghost of you/dancing in the hallway/lunar to base/let's get this on
- 2) Through the rain you come/stones in the road/you're a champion from another world
- 3) Wash the stains away with alcohol/bleach my memory, make it virgin snow
- 4) Hamburgers so that we stay alive/But Happy Meals mean something died
- 5) She was the fire, I was the wood/I love your mouth/I love it all the way
- 6) Oh teardrop, you know you make me so sad
Actually, they're all fucking genuine Gavin Rossdale prose.
Rossdale occasionally uses electronic distortion on his voice, which makes his stupidly surreal lyrics seem as though they've been randomly generated by a malfunctioning android. Rehashing several chapters of Sting's "How to Suck as a Solo Artist" primer, he incorporates reggae breakdowns, gospel choirs, breathy philosophizing and New Age electro-drums.
If anything, Rossdale should be a spousal footnote, siring Gwen Stefani's kids so she can take maternity leave from spawning her own abhorrent solo discs. Perhaps this apparent commercial failure will reduce him to that role.