'The Next Great American Band': If only they could sing...
Two bands got cut from The Next Great American Band this week, and I was shocked at who they were. They seemed like two of the most potentially popular bands on the show, playing the sort of music you'd hear on the radio today -- and forget about three seconds after the song was replaced by a commercial. Who knew the American public liked idiosyncratic, personal music? Certainly not most record companies ...
Spoiler seems to be the hardest word.
We finally find out how the ejection process works -- the bands get to stew in the green room as they're called, one by one, until only three are left. Then host Dominic Bowden draws out the moment as long as possible, and finally announces which band will be going on, and which two will go home. He does give the ejectees a chance to be bitter, however, which is nice.
The Hatch and The Likes of You are our bootees this week. I didn't see that coming -- they seemed like the sort of inoffensive, not-terribly-challenging, reasonably good pop bands with photogenic frontmen who would go far in a show like this. I guess they didn't evoke enough passion from the viewers -- or from 300 callers from Nebraska, as The Hatch's lead singer Sean said. Bitter much, Sean?
On to the bands who did make it through:
Sixwire's original song is slick and lots of fun. They have a thing for fast-talking lyrics, almost reminding me of a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song. Their Elton John/Bernie Taupin cover is "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," and it's competent, but not that much different than the original. The judges love them.
Tres Bien!'s original is a bit more gritty than their previous stuff -- they sounds less like a 60s tribute band to me this time, while still remaining true to 60s harmonies. They cover "Love Lies Bleeding," and don't hurt it, but don't add much to it. Am I imaging things, or is it right on the ragged edge of Michael's voice? The judges like them, but again, warn them to work on their musicianship -- and tell Michael he should stick to singing, not playing guitar.
Franklin Bridge rocks again, some more. They're amazing musicians, incorporating complex rhythms and virtuoso guitar work. Their cover is, of course, "Philadelphia Freedom," and it's phenomenal. The judges love them, but warn that maybe simplicity isn't a bad thing. I've got to say, they've got one hell of an attitude -- like they're above whatever the judges have to say. You can't be on the show and act like you're too good for the show simultaneously, guys. Make up your mind, ok?
The Clark Brothers' original is tight and well done, great harmonies and fantastic playing -- although I have to laugh at the mandolin player's wide-legged power-rock stance. It just looks funny for him to be bracing against the power of this itty bitty stringed instrument, you know? They cover "Country Comfort" from Tumbleweed Connection, and it's a sweet, laid-back take on the song. I'm sort of disappointed -- I wanted to see them put their own stamp on something that wasn't already country to begin with.
Light of Doom is fully clad -- hooray! Their original, "Light of Doom," is a sort of "Tonight I'm Going to Rock You Tonight" song -- they sing "Light of Doom" about 80 thousand times. When Spinal Tap has superior lyrical skill, you've got to worry. Their cover, "Saturday Night's All Right," rocks out. The judges love them, but Dicko still finds them creepy and gimmicky.
Dot Dot Dot listened to the judges, and have toned down the frenetic jumping. Their original is a synth-heavy, Prince-like 80s-esque midtempo song. I like it a lot, but I have five hours worth of Duran Duran on my iPod, so my judgment may be suspect. I also like their take on "Your Song" -- starting off slow and mellow, then rocking out. The judges were glad they toned it down a bit, but Sheila and Dicko want them to take it down another notch or two. Bah.
Cliff Wagner and the Old Number 7 have a great original, a very rockabilly take on Vegas weddings that they dedicate to Britney Spears. I think it's their audition song. It's good stuff. Their version of "Honky Cat" has a great drawl to it, a sort bluegrass twang that immediately makes you kick back and relax. I love it. So do the judges.
The Muggs' original is their patented greasy blues-rock scorcher, and they acquit themselves admirably. Not so much with the cover -- "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" -- which just highlights Danny's vocal weakness. It's bad. He's a great guitar player, but he really can't sing. The judges tell him this, but he's resistant.
Rocket has the same problem -- their lead singer just doesn't hold up. Their original, "Future Ex-Boyfriend," is a lot of fun, and Lauren's rather wispy voice doesn't grate that much because the lyrics are fun. On "Rocket Man," however, you could really hear how weak her voice is. She's a karaoke-level singer, and she slides all over the place. It's not good. The judges confront her about her voice, but Lauren is defiant, and the crowd boos. They do that a lot. The crowd ain't that smart sometimes.
Our last band is Denver and the Mile High Orchestra, and I cheer. I thought for sure they wouldn't get through -- they were too different, too off the beaten path -- but I was proved wrong. Huzzah! I adored their original, which swung and rocked like great 70s horn-driven dance music. Their cover, "I'm Still Standing," was similarly well done. I love these guys.
Highlights, quotes and odds and ends:
- Fifi LaRue is in the audience, in full makeup. Why are they still giving him attention? Ugh. Also, he's a Rocket fan.
- John is getting annoyed at being booed. "Everyone's entitled to their wrong opinion," he says. When the audience boos that, he yells "Give us Barabas!" Hah!
- Sheila on Sixwire: "You guys are like a warm blanket and I love the way you cuddle me." Yikes.
- Dicko on Tres Bien!: "Don't steal from the Yardbirds too much, because they will get cross." And you don't want Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page coming after you.
- John confronts the fans over Franklin Bridge: "I want to hear the whole song..." [boos start] "Don't boo my ass, I'm sick of you already -- before you open your mouth, listen to what I'm saying.... I wanted to hear the whole song because it was so good." He's right.
- Franklin Bridge's Curt, when Dicko asks him to explain why they seem to overarrange everything: "I think the ladies love it." You're talented, Curt, but shut up.
- Dicko on Light of Doom: "I still think it's all a bit weird. I can't help thinking that maybe you're some weird viral marketing campaign for a two-in-one shampoo/conditioner." I told you they had a future in hair care commercials.
- Dicko admits that he hoped Dot Dot Dot would be gong home after last week -- harrumph. He also ridicules Adam's default posture, where he folds his hand behind his back like some sort of reverse Napoleon maneuver -- "Were you a fencer in a past life?"
- All of the judges were harsh to the Muggs' Danny about his vocals, and they're right. He was kind of painful to listen to. Dicko was, characteristically, the most blunt: "It was tuneless rubbish. That was like Bart Simpson on helium... It's time for a three piece to get a fourth piece -- get a singer." He's right.
- Lauren gets defensive when the judges get on her for being a lousy singer: "I am who I am -- I'm not trying to be the best singer, I'm trying to be who I am." Who you are needs to get herself a vocal coach, Lauren. No one is asking you to sound like every other overproduced woman on the radio at the moment, but you've got to get more of a voice. There's not enough there there.
- Sheila on Denver and the Mile High Orchestra: "Earth Wind and Fire, Tower of Power, Chicago, all those bands would be so proud of the arrangement of the horns." High praise -- and it's deserved.
- Dicko warns Denver and the boys that they shouldn't dilute their image yet -- they should stick to swing-era big-bad type stuff, not mix it up with 70s dance music. I think he's wrong -- they just broadened their appeal something fierce.
My top three performers this week: The Clark Brothers, Denver and the Mile High Orchestra, and Franklin Bridge. My bottom two: The Muggs and Rocket. Neither of them has the vocal strength to go through, but I'm betting Rocket's fans will come through for them.
Next week, another two bands will be cut, and the remaining eight will perform the songs of Billy Joel. Ten bucks that Light of Doom does "Only the Good Die Young" or "It's Still Rock 'n Roll to Me."