Bands You Don’t Like, Despite Being In A Genre You Love
By Jon Graef in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 15, 2010 10:00PM
Photo credit by John Sturdy, via Secret Colours' MySpace Page
We’ve been itchin’ to write about Chicago quintet Secret Colours for a while now. They’re a group who, like the Brian Jonestown Massacre before them, borrows pretty liberally from the 60s-era psychedelic playbook while omitting Anton Newcombe’s sarcastic, post-modernist lyrics from the equation.
If that makes Secret Colours sound like a photocopy of a photocopy, well, no argument here. So why did we want to write about them then? Because we thought we would love them. It seemed like a match made in musical heaven. And yet, it wasn’t made to be.This despite our love of all music that even whiffs vaguely of pot fumes.
Sure, jangly drugged-out psychedelia has been done before and before and before. But no band has a monopoly on a sound. With a few exceptions, though, Secret Colours is the sound of a young, talented band seemingly following a musical script for no other reason than that they know it’s the one they’re supposed to follow.
Since August, Secret Colours has been getting some slowly building (at least in the context of how band buzz moves on the internet) but noteworthy press. There was a long, interesting Reader profile. Then Pitchfork recently featured Secret Colours’ video for “Pop Star,” one of the band’s better tracks. The narcotic bass-line and whirling wah-wah proved awfully hard to resist. Check for yourself:
(Secret Colours, “Pop Star”)
So maybe I had this band wrong? Wouldn’t be the first time as a music fan, after all. Lester Bangs called writing off a band only to come back and love them later “doubling back.” Most famously, he did it with the MC5. Not to make impossible comparisons—I’m just saying there’s precedent for this kind of thing.
I opted to revisit Secret Colours in advance of the groups show at the Mayne Stage, the Rogers Park venue that rose out of the ashes of Morse Theatre, hoping something would click. Well, disappointingly, this has proved not to be the case. Save for a few songs, like the aforementioned “Pop Star” and “Gravity,” a breezy, driving tune with a drum beat flirting with the skittering syncopation of hip-hop, Secret Colours do nothing for me. Curious to see if this kind of disappointment was frequent, some of us music writers bandied about the question.
Here’s what we came up with:
So most people that know me would probably categorize me as a nerd, and a music nerd to boot. I tend to go on-and-on about what I’m listening to now, what has inspired my taste in the past and, of course, the music really makes my skin crawl. I’ve always gravitated toward a lot of loud, sometimes heavier-sounding rock, as well as all things drenched in reverb, heavy guitar and endearing, yet not expertly voiced, vocals.
Guided By Voices (GBV), Pavement and Sebadoh, bands known for having a mostly male following, were a part of my daily listening regiment. Having said this, you would think that I would love nothing more than to turn up the volume and swill a PBR while listening to The Hold Steady. But that is truly not the case.
(The Hold Steady, “Chips Ahoy!”)
Instead, I completely shudder each time I hear even such as a bar off one of their records. Number one, I can’t stand the Craig Finn’s voice; it really makes my blood boil and I love an eccentric voice. I love Nico, I love Lou Reed. Hell, I even love Antony of Antony and the Johnsons.
This really shouldn’t be a problem for me, but it is. When GBV retired, it left a large, gaping hole in a lot of avid fans lives. I feel this void was replaced for a great deal of fans by what isn’t even a shadow of what Bob Pollard did in his vast career as a musician and song-writer.
I mean, I miss going to those shows, drinking until my liver was swollen and sore, screaming along to every song off of Alien Lanes, but that doesn’t mean that the absence of that can be easily replaced. I really tried to like The Hold Steady, but felt like I came up short with each and every listen. I just can’t do it. I’ve seen them live twice, given all their albums a once over, and I still can’t do it. I don’t know exactly what it is, but all I know is that it won’t replace the hole in my heart that was left by the retirement of one of the greatest bands of the ‘90s or ever for that matter.
While I could go on and on with a list of bands that I shouldn't like but do, it's a bit harder to go the other way around. At first I thought of LCD Soundsystem, but James Murphy's come a long way with me. Or maybe Vampire Weekend, a band I've never really cared for. Then again, I wouldn't say they're part of a genre that I love. But, after more thought, the answer became obvious: The Beatles. I should love The Beatles. I hate The Beatles.
(The Beatles, “Get Back”,)
I suppose hate is a strong word. After all, there's nothing particularly offensive about The Beatles. They're fine musicians with a ton of influence in today's music culture. About one in two musicians would likely cite The Beatles as a major influence. But to me that means nothing. The convention that I should do anything more than respect a band for being influential is totally inane. The Beatles are, at best, a jack of all trades band; relatively good at a lot of different things, excellent at none. And I'll stop anyone who says I need to listen to such and such album. I've made the conscious effort and have listened to every album multiple times. All the enjoyment I can muster for The Beatles comes from a few songs here and there--hardly a reason to call them one of the best bands ever.
Secret Colours play with Ume, Sunday, Oct. 17, at Mayne Stage, 7 p.m., $10, all ages.