I’m happy to say that I learned a few new things while listening to the demos people sent in for the Demo Roundup. Firstly, I’ve learned that I’m very, very glad I’m not a recording industry talent scout or A &R Man, because if the demos people sent me were any indication, their job must be a lot like digging through septic tanks in search of gold nuggets. Secondly, I’ve learned that people who can sing are at a goddamn premium. 90% of the demos I’ve heard have singers that make Mark E. Smith sound like Celine Dion. Thirdly, I have found that if a band has no talent, they often think they can make up for it with either good-humored cleverness or atonal “experimentation.” In these cases, I get the impression that these poor, pitiful failures are just floundering aimlessly, hoping that they’ll blindly stumble upon something that will randomly capture that public’s attention and skyrocket them to major critical success despite their total lack of musical ability (for example: look up The Shaggs).
Due to an unexpectedly large response (about a hundred demos in so far and more arriving every day), I’m not going to be able to write about them all this week. I’m listening to them on a first-come- first-serve basis, so if you sent in a demo and don’t see it written about this week I either haven’t gotten around to it yet or it was too direly boring to write about.
I will be rating these bands on a scale of one to five. These ratings do not merely reflect my personal opinion of the bands; they are a scientific measurement of the musicians’ worth as human beings. Therefore, those bands who get two stars or less should probably commit suicide to avoid further shaming their family names, and those who get four or more stars should be elected president. I’ve provided short, reduced-quality sample clips of the songs in question, and I very much encourage you to listen to them. Not because they’re good, obviously, but because you’ll probably have no idea what I’m talking about if you don’t. With that out of the way, let’s crack some skulls!
Listen to a sample of Party-Yay
Listen to a sample of PieceHybrid is a German four-piece spewing a rather laughable pastiche of American alt-rock. The fact that they’re foreign may explain their music, but by no means does it excuse it. Even someone who is not a native speaker of English, as I must assume the singer of Hybrid is not, should know that the line “What a piece of shit this life can be / when you aren’t here along with me” is absolute crap. They fare slightly better with “Party Yay,” which is just lame enough to turn the hatred that one might naturally feel for Hybrid into pity; it brings to mind the pathos of a clueless foreign exchange student in a neon-green headband eating French fries with a fork.
Max Power and the Damn Straights
Listen to a sample of Enjoy Refreshing TimeIf you're going to be one of those bands that tries to coast on cleverness, please take the time to ensure that you're clever. If people wanted Space Ghost references, they'd be hanging out with their nerdy little brother, not listening to rock and roll. I wish that people like Max Power and the Damn Straights could just accept the fact that rock and roll is the property of cool people, and unless a band of geeks is delightfully eccentric enough to transcend their nerdiness and turn it around into coolness, they’re not cut out to be making rock music.
Listen to a sample of Deirdre's SongLet me guess: I bet these guys are totally sick of being compared to Grandaddy. Deirdre's Song meanders along for a little too long without much meaning or direction, it's pleasant enough that they're sure to pick up a respectable number of fans here and there. All in all, their demos aren’t bad. I’m sure they’ll find a devoted local following of indie kids who have nothing better to do on a Friday night, and probably even a record deal with some label that nobody except your cool greasy homeless friend has ever heard of, but I’d urge them not to quit those day jobs just yet. The world needs earnest, shuffling indie-pop songs, but more importantly, it also needs refills on its Pepsi. 79 Cortinaz, I am proud to present you with the Your Band Sucks Day Job Award. You’re not terrible, but don’t count on us buying your records.
Listen to a sample of Last Train to RosindaleExcellent music if you love being bored, and many people do. I’d compare it to Boards of Canada, but it would probably go to their heads; instead, I’ll just say that it’s part of the awesome new genre of wearying relaxation-electronica that’s been burning up the backgrounds of prescription drug commercials on Lifetime lately. Weirdly enough, though, some nerds are really into this stuff. It sounds good on headphones and it doesn’t make one think or have any unwanted emotions, so it’s perfect for insulating geeks from the cruelty of the outside world. People who haven’t given up entirely on having a soul might want to stick to music with actual instruments, but the lucky ones who are mature enough to realize that their empty lives demand empty music may find a new favorite band in mus-ok.
Correction: Johnny Red of mus-ok has informed me that their music does in fact contain "actual instruments." Liars? Who knows!
Listen to a sample of Innocence and CigarettesTo a person in the band, it probably sounds like everything is coming together nicely, but from the outside it sounds like it's all in shambles. “Innocence and Cigarettes” has a decent chorus, so why not build a song around it instead of surrounding it with a bunch of directionless faux-funk wanking? Not everyone has the capacity to write a good tune, but if one is in a band, that ought to necessarily mean that one is not exempt from trying. Get better soon, Candid Avenue!
Listen to a sample of Found ArtI'm sorry J. Kyle, but you can't sing. Someone somewhere along the line obviously told you could sing, but you sound like you're drooling, in pain, and possibly about to throw up. Also, you don't have to shout "GO!" before your guitar solo, especially if it's lame. Try shouting "LOOK OVER THERE!" instead; maybe it will distract people from your depressing musical ineptitude. By the way, is the guitar break in “Found Art” supposed to be an homage to Boston? It sounds like "Peace of Mind" with all the awesomeness taken out.
Listen to a sample of Weis and HickmanWe all know that Dungeons and Dragons sucks. We all know that emo sucks. So it would naturally follow that emo based on Dungeons and Dragons would double-suck, right? Wrong. The brilliant alchemists in Melt Wizard have managed to combine crap with crap and somehow convert it into shining musical platinum. “Weis and Hickman” tells the story of two young fantasy writers falling in love on the way to Dragoncon, and it’s as emotionally affecting as pop music can get. Melt Wizard has created one of the true masterpieces of human expression, and I say that without hyperbole. Rock on, gentlemen, for you are the proud winners of the first-ever Your Band Sucks: Keep Rockin’! Award.
Listen to a sample of Jesse OwensQuite possibly the best fingertap-soloing techno-breakdowning metal song about Jesse Owens ever written. And that's saying a lot. This song was apparently done as part of a school project, and it makes me wish I had been there when it was presented so that I might witness the blank stares that undoubtedly filled the room.
Listen to a sample of some song of theirsHey, what do you know, I was just hoping I'd get to hear something that sounded like terribly mixed industrial music from 1989. Wait, that was actually in a dream I had in which I had Down’s syndrome. Next month when my buddies at NASA finally finish that time machine they’ve been working on (I know it’ll be done next month because they already came back in time and told us) I’ll be sure to mail your demo back to a time when people actually gave a shit about music like this.
Listen to a sample of Happy Either WayThe garish microwave-timer beeping that starts about ten seconds into the song is a nauseating prelude to the near-unbearable circus of bad production that follows. The chorus sounds like it was somehow passed through a high-tech studio "mud and gravy" filter, and many of the drum samples have the treble jacked up so high that they're likely to irritate dogs and confuse migratory birds. “Happy Either Way,” despite its slight industrial leaning, is somehow reminiscent of Alamaba 3’s “Woke Up This Morning,” which, after being used as the theme song to The Sopranos, graduated from just being a terrible song to being the worst television theme song in history (the best television theme song in history, of course, being Bauhaus’s “Double Dare,” the theme song to the Nickelodeon game show of the same name).
The Marty Sedek Band
Listen to a sample of One More LeftPop music this tame and irrelevant can only come from a band who is either Christian, home-schooled, or Canadian, and I get the impression that the Marty Sedek band must be all three. I'm not saying that everyone has to thrash away on their guitars and sing about cutting up babies, but "One More Left" represented what can only be described as the most tediously pleasant three minutes of my entire life; band namesake Marty Sedek needs to think long and hard about the artistic merit involved in singing lighthearted songs about buying chocolate for nice girls. Does anyone care, Marty Sedek? No. Nobody cares. I’m proud to present you with the first ever Your Band Sucks Lame Award.
Listen to a sample of The Air Up HereThis shit is lame enough to go platinum, so you might as well start hating Mrs. Grundy now. In a few months, assuming these guys aren’t as ugly as they are boring, you’ll probably see them on VH1 between Sugar Ray and Maroon 5. If they get huge, remember that I told you they sucked before anyone else even knew who they were. If they don’t, then we can all thank God that there’s still some amount of justice in the universe.
Chris Walker and the Chris Walker Experience
Listen to a sample of I Missed YouCongratulations, Chris Walker, you’ve produced the only demo retarded and morally repugnant enough to actually be beneath my criticism.
Listen to a sample of None Down In FlamesHow refreshing, a musically inept instrumental by a teenage garage band. It forces one to weigh two totally undesirable options: if a band is basically crap in every possible way, is it better that they should have vocals to distract from the ham-fisted musicianship, or is the fact that there are no vocals a blessing, because it’s just one less element of horribleness to contend with? Considering the quality of most of the singers I’ve heard among these demos, I’m pretty glad there were no vocals.
Listen to a sample of ConversationBetter than most of the stuff I've heard so far, but that doesn't mean it's not terrible. The singer sounds like a shakier, less confident version of John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants (when he does his goofy lounge singer voice, no less), giving Mile Zero all the popular appeal of a Jar Jar Binks pez dispenser filled with compacted goat turds.
Listen to a sample of ApoliticalThe song seems to be complaining about the NYPD, presumably because they gave the band a ticket for being too EXTREEEEMMMME! That’s right, Chargertron don’t give a fuck about nothing, especially not their own music, which is a nauseating whirlwind of clichés, pathetic attempts to be edgy, and impotent, inarticulate, childish anger.
Listen to a sample of Bob (A Trumpet)Oh boy, another band trying to be clever and failing miserably. If you're a fan of bands that try their very hardest to make sure their music is entirely impossible to listen to, then perhaps Genital Hercules is for you. It almost seems like the intended audience for this music is ranting, bearded lunatics who preach their jumbled conspiracy theories on street corners, but that’s probably giving Genital Hercules too much credit; that theory might actually make them sound sort of interesting, but interesting is the last thing they are. No tune, not funny, shouldn't exist. Genital Hercules, I hereby present you with the Your Band Sucks: Not as Clever as You Think Award.
Listen to a sample of What You Call LifeThe chorus starts with the words "It's hopeless, it's hopeless," which is perhaps a warning of the guitar solo that's about to ensue. I'm all for equal opportunity employment, but perhaps deaf people shouldn't be allowed to be the guitarists in pop bands. Couldn't someone else in the band tap him on the shoulder and tell him in sign language that he's playing in the wrong key, and that he's not conforming to any recognizable scales? Does this guy own the fucking PA or something, so you have to keep him around? Hopeless indeed. By the way, do you guys happen to know that sciatica (the word whose spelling you’re presumably bastardizing in the name of hipness) means lower back pain? That’s a really hip name for a band if you’re trying to relate to withered, hunched-over old people with nerve problems. Psyatika, I've heard a lot of shit in the past couple of weeks, but your tone-deaf awfulness makes you the first band truly worthy of the "GIVE UP!" award.
Listen to a sample of You Against You
Upon first listening, I couldn't tell if "You Against You" was genuinely not terrible or if I only thought so because I had just listened to Psyatika. I determined that the only way to be sure was to clear my mind with something else and try again. I chose the most disgustingly brain-clearing song that I could think of, The Eagles' "Take It Easy," but by the time I was done listening to that I realized that I had entirely stopped caring about Joe Hankin. Sorry, Joe Hankin. As a friend of mine once said, "Don't even try to understand. Just find a place to make your stand and take it easy." I’m taking it so easy at this point that I’m no longer able to care about listening to shitty demos anymore, so I’ll have to finish up this demo roundup another week.
Once again, if you sent in a demo and I didn't get around to it this time, I'll try to do so sometime in the near future. In case some of you are still itching to send in a demo, I'll repeat the rules: To submit a demo, please send me an e-mail with the subject “DEMO ROUNDUP.” Do not send mp3s as attachments, because I will not open them. If you want me to listen to them, upload them somewhere and I’ll check them out. No streaming bullshit, please, I want actual mp3 files (I will not post the address of the file anywhere and use up all of your bandwidth, I promise). If you want to send in a physical copy of a promo CD, e-mail me with the same subject and I’ll tell you where to send it.
I want my bed to look like the health department is checking for bedbugs. I want to feel like it’s on an episode of Maury getting scanned for semen.
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It's still okay to like Ben Stiller, guys.
According to Dr. David Thorpe and "Your Band Sucks," the music you hold dear is actually unimportant, dull, and staggeringly awful. Everything from folk music to terrorcore-techstep is absolute garbage that has somehow fallen off the trash heap of modern music and found its way into your CD player.