Where’s The Street Team?: 15 Years Of Failure

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MAGNET’s editors came up with the idea of a Where’s The Street Team? directed at one band for each of the 15 years the magazine has been in existence. Fifteen years? Yeah, right. I know full well that MAGNET was founded in 2003 for the express purpose of providing a vehicle for this column. I’m pretty sure the boardroom meeting went something like this: “Well, we need to surround Street Team with music coverage, features, reviews and such, just to give the reader a breather.” I’m a good sport, of course, so I went along with this whole “15th Anniversary Issue” applesauce.

1993: Urge Overkill
Urge Overkill, which adorned the cover of the first issue of MAGNET, was responsible for approximately two-and-a-half albums in the style of “good.” The reason for Urge’s cover-stardom was major-label debut Saturation: a juiced-up, unholy cocktail of Journey, the Who and a trickle of aggro noise. So why am I writing about Urge? It’s not because the band promptly started to suck (which it did). It’s not because the members of Urge became bloated, drug-addled rock stars (minus the “star” part). It’s because Urge was a crystal ball looking into the future we’ve been living for several years now. In the once-sacred indie-rock early-’90s, bands did not dress up, party with actual party drugs, brazenly seek fame and act like vapid idiots, even with tongues firmly in cheeks. Now, “indie rock” bands are simply vehicles propelled by the consumerism of assembly-line socialites. So yeah, Urge Overkill was on to something. It just happened to be something really depressing.

1994: The Afghan Whigs
The Afghan Whigs started out in that nether region I like to call grundie rock: the purgatory a band resides in when it’s a little too challenging to be grunge and a little too X-station-date-rape-radio-ready to be indie rock. See also: Best Kissers In The World, late-period Screaming Trees, Coffin Break and Paw. Then, a funny thing happened: The Afghan Whigs became the Afghan Wiggah Puhleeze! For better or worse, frontman Greg Dulli deserves points for being ahead of the curve with the paint-alt-rock-black thing. Consider the Make-Up, Har Mar Superstar, Midnite Vultures-era Beck and the eight-years-too-late humor found in most Flight Of The Conchords songs. Dulli loses points for being the guy who reliably attempted to fuck your girlfriend whenever the Whigs came to town.

1995: Rocket From The Crypt
It’s painful to be reminded that this band shared a member with the greatest post-hardcore unit of all time, Drive Like Jehu. Encompassing absolutely everything that made ’90s garage-rock/rockabilly culture utterly stupid, Rocket From The Crypt can be thanked for further popularizing mouth-breather favorites like matching mechanic’s shirts, faux-gearhead lifestyles and horn sections put in places where horn sections should never be.

1996: Spacemen 3
Spacemen 3 is perhaps the most overrated “seminal” outfit of the past three decades. So, you like bands whose lyrics are interchangeable with the bad poetry of a 17-year-old stoner? There’s going to be a drug revolution in the streets? Guess what, boys, that never happened. What did happen was a neutered, when-minimalism-goes-tedious version of the Jesus And Mary Chain combined with a neutered, when-minimalism-goes-tedious version of the Stooges.

1997: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
This was the period that found Jon Spencer pulling stunts like We’ve Got A Real Live Black Bluesman Onstage. Utilizing R.L. Burnside was a fortuitous last-gasp move, seeing as how every record nerd north of Kentucky eats that shit up like a BBQ sandwich being served through a hole in the wall of a broken-down shack. Next to the limp-ass rockabilly he’s peddling these days with Heavy Trash, I’ll take what Spencer was doing in 1997. And I’ll take it for one dollar at a yard sale.

1998: Tortoise
Tortoise led a school of thought that settled for humorless, jazz-inflected tedium, opening the floodgates protecting underground music lovers from the onslaught of identity-allergic crap and raining the term “post-rock” upon every leftfield misstep uttered by those bored with troublesome tactics such as hooks, vocals, charisma and energy. Post-rock? Try post-good.

1999: The Magnetic Fields
Talk about a guy who needs to lighten the fuck up. Let me take you back nine years, when Stephin Merritt should’ve terminated his membership in the cult-of-one that believes everything he writes is a pop gem. 69 Love Songs was the line of demarcation between the early inspiration/fun-seeking/exploratory phase of indie rock and men turning a blind eye toward embarrassing acts of domesticity such as carrying your infant on the front of your body.

2000: Badly Drawn Boy
Looking like a decade-too-late extra from Slacker, the man I like to call Badly Dressed Boy had his three minutes of fame dumbing down Built To Spill hooks and over-intellectualizing Britpop. My girlfriend at the time used to chase me around the house with a MAGNET photo of Damon Gough’s mug taped to her face. That’s why we’re no longer together.

2001: Queens Of The Stone Age
It took a couple albums, but Queens Of The Stone Age eventually scared off discriminating listeners by attracting thuggish, aging mallternative rockers and homogeneous pea-brained bartender types to their shows. Gotta love standing next to a guy as he marvels at the inclusion of vinyl on the merch table, only rocks out during the hit(s), then shuffles off to do shooters at Buffalo Wild Wings.

2002: …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
Because the late ’90s and early ’00s were so boring, the members of Trail Of Dead looked to be on the brink of success due solely to the fact that they smashed their shit up onstage and usually lived up to the rumors that they were walking garbage cans. What didn’t work was their sound (adult-contemporary screamo) combined with their age (pushing if not exceeding 30) at a time when every early-20s asshole with a guitar had learned to play Wire and Gang Of Four riffs.

2003:  Interpol
People still can’t give the Joy Division shit a rest. Interpol updated ’90s indie rock by brilliantly revisiting first-wave post-punk and the Church. 2003 was a heady time for the New York City foursome, when the world stayed oblivious to the fact that this was a one-and-a-half-album band. That reality slapped Capitol across the face four years later when Interpol delivered major-label debut Our Love To Admire, a small-scale Waterworld for modern rock circa now. Will this entry conclude without a slam against bassist Carlos D? I like to believe the rest of the band whispers, “Do something irritating, wear something ridiculous, keep getting attention,” into his ear during hours of deep slumber.

2004: Tom Waits
When MAGNET readers came across a Tom Waits entry in issue #66’s Street Team column, something shifted ever-so-slightly. Before my hatred of Waits’ music (I do not hate the man) and fans was made public, infrequent partygoers or show patrons might credit me with making them laugh or politely let me know they disagreed with me. After my feelings about Waits were revealed, however, people treated me as if I went on VH-1’s 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Artists and used the N-word to describe Afrika Bambaataa. Some folks just don’t understand how a music lover could possibly dismiss Waits. It’s easy. I’m like Rowdy Roddy Piper in They Live, but instead of special sunglasses, I have special ears that can hear just how contrived, unlistenable, heavy-handed, unsubtle, silly, irritating and grossly overrated 100 percent of Waits’ output is. The infestation has already spread so widely that I feel helpless in my fight against his impenetrable awfulness. I’m only one man.

2005: Sleater-Kinney
By the time Sleater-Kinney reached final album The Woods, every rube on the scene had weathered a ’70s-inspired hard-rock makeover. It took The Woods to prove that if you wanted this sturdy formula to fail, give the job to a group of bleeders. The women in Team Dresch still stand as the only birds who could blow your brains apart with rock. Sleater-Kinney rocks about as hard as Monday morning in a Planned Parenthood waiting room.

2006: Beirut
How groan-inducing is the hipster embrace of Gypsy music? The exact second I became cognizant of it was the exact second I despised it deeply. I’d like to see it spiced up by Beirut’s Zach Condon and his fellow multicultural vultures acting like the “other Gypsies.” You know, the “Irish travelers” and such. I’d like to see Condon get caught trying to con some hard-working homeowner with a poorly done driveway-repair scam. That would be funny.

2007: Against Me!
Q: How many members of Against Me! does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Against Me! isn’t going to change shit.
The best thing about the end of the Bush administration? Maybe the PG-13 major-label politico-punks will go away. It boggles the mind to think of how many adults listen to and enjoy children’s music. No one is against you, no one is threatened by what you have to say, and one day you’re going to seriously regret those tats.

—Andrew Earles


 

 

 

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17 Comments

  1. Posted January 18, 2009 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    This is the biggest list of bullshit I have read in long time. Dissing Tom Waits was the first clue. Yet another reason why most music lovers do not consider Magnet a legitimate music publication. The misogynistic Sleater-Kinney comments alone show the misanthropic tendencies of this hack posing as a writer, and obviously sorely musically-challenged. One of the tenants in today’s writing is to avoid sexist language – which Andrew Earles clearly erred among a “list” of other failings in this misinformed piece based on adolescent ranting than on any musical taste.

  2. Dave O'Connor
    Posted January 18, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    dissing RFTC, the Whigs, Spacemen 3, QUEENS!!!!, trail of dead and TOM WAITS?

    SERIOUSLY????

    who doens’t like queens of the fucking stone age…. you’re a tool, get a new job.

  3. Ward Cleaver 666
    Posted January 18, 2009 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Andy Andy Andy….where to start? I know you, or at least 50 guys like you.
    Your grunge band was no Nirvana – so you set your sites on ska, by the time you had a tuba player to fill out the brass section you wanted to be the next moby and bought some turntables – then the sad realization you suck at music settled in. What better way to get back at an unfair world than to mock those that prevailed where you came up considerably short- most notably those that are females or ‘bleeders’ as you call them. That comment alone makes you sound like a ‘homogeneous pea-brained bartender type’. How many rewrites on your magnetic fields section did you have to go through before composing one with out any homophobic epithets? Sorry you never made it as a musician – journalism isnt looking too good either.

  4. the skin
    Posted January 18, 2009 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    put down your tall soy latte, your “calp your hands say yeah” cd, shave your pubic hair stubble and pull your useless head out of your (favorite place to hang out) ass. you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. if somebody actually paid you to write this, the terrorists have won.

  5. catfish
    Posted January 18, 2009 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    you have no idea…

  6. Posted January 19, 2009 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    RFTC, great fucking band, sometimes rock ‘n roll just needs to be basic. Give it a listen again. A lot of the progressions that made Jehu great are in there. They were just a ton more direct about it. And in 16 years, they never dissapointed.

    SM3, sorry the drug revolution never found it to your rich white burb. Don’t say you didn’t want to go to the party when you were never invited. They might not hold up as well as others but they were the right band for the time, and it was a good time.

    JSBX and Heavy Trash, I’ve always enjoyed them both. And Ass Pocket of Whiskey is one of the best go to albums deep in a whiskey buzz. If you can enjoy music without being put off by hype, these guys rock.

    S-K, if they were guys dressed like 1980’s Springsteen today, you would be all over this shit. From the sparse The Day I went Away on the first album to some of the straight up rockers on the Woods, these girls always put out something good. Sorry that them being girls is too muck of a schtick for you to get past.

    You should have listed Tom Waits first so no one would read any further.

    Which Starbucks do you work at? I would like to discuss this further in person.

  7. Posted January 19, 2009 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Andrew, your comments about Rocket From The Crypt made me cry :'(

  8. sinnylong
    Posted January 22, 2009 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Let me get this straight. Andrew Earles thinks that 100% of Tom Waits’ output is “contrived … heavy-handed, unsubtle, silly, irritating and grossly overrated?” If that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black, I don’t know what is.

  9. Posted January 24, 2009 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Don’t let ’em getcha down, Earls. You’re pretty fucking right on with most of your comments. I even like a few of the bands you dissed above and I still think your points about them are valid even if I disagree.

    Unfortunately, you can’t offer an opinion to most people that differs from theirs without them aggressively telling you what an asshole you are. God forbid you should have your own individual taste and present your thoughts in a caustic, humorous manner. Don’t you know the purpose of the music press is to exist as an extension of record label promo departments?

  10. Posted January 28, 2009 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen almost all of these bands live at one time or another, and I would classify them as “bands that were really amazing for a very brief period of time, put out at least one, maybe two, great albums, and then sucked thereafter.”

    Even Interpol and Trail of Dead were awesome, for a sec.

    I would file shows I have seen by UO, RFTK, and Blues Explosion among the best I have ever seen, but yes they sucked later in their career.

  11. hallajewya
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 4:43 am | Permalink

    He took down Tom Waits! Bravo!

  12. Posted March 6, 2009 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    Tom Waits is terrible. You are not alone in thinking this.

    On the other hand, whether or not I think their last few records were that good, that Sleater-Kinney crack is a little, uh, iffy.

  13. Andrew the Noisy
    Posted March 12, 2009 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Aww, did the big mean boy make fun of the girls? Stupid mean boy who’s just being mean. Look, I like “Dig Me Out” as much as the next man, but S-K needs no hypersensitive fanboys to raise their petticoats in their defense.

    So, to whoever wrote “One of the tenants in today’s writing is to avoid sexist language ” — aren’t you done with college yet? In the real world, there isn’t any thought police following you around…you can actually speak of people in Designated Victim Groups with disdain without having a pre-fab frenzy of PC brownshirts descending on you in a frisson of hissing. Please get over yourself.

  14. nathan
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    great job rush limbaugh…, even if you had some valid point to make, your delivery makes people wanna vomit.

  15. Andrew the Noisy
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Whereas tossing around cliche’s like “rush limbaugh” will get you in with the cool set…got it.

  16. Your mom
    Posted August 28, 2010 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    The word is “tenet” not “tenant.” Moron.

  17. AVC
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Tom Waits’ music sucks dick and only poseurs claim to like him, as many of these comments will attest.

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