The school paper offered me a column and who am I to say no to some healthy (but completely shameless) promotion? Here’s the first of what I have affectionately decided will be the sister “publication” to this blog, yet focused entirely on music, hence SOUND GRENADE.
Past is Present; Present is F***ed
When I was asked to take over this column I decided that I wanted it to be noticeably different from both all the other music related pieces I’ve written, but also the ones I’ve read as well. Ultimately though, the problem in trying to be unique is that sometimes the norm is actually pretty good too. So while I don’t want this column to follow the traditional “concert review/album review/rant” formula, I’m not ruling out some concert reviews, album reviews or rants. The goal here is to create a kind of genre spanning, format hopping independent music smorgasbord that both the musically uninitiated and the jaded music snob can understand and enjoy. Whether I succeed in this or not is up to you.
Now that the pleasantries are out of the way…
While it would make sense to start 2009 with some kind of 2008 retrospective, spending 800 words talking about what I liked last year seems like a bit of a cop out. So instead I’m going to talk about something that really pissed me off in 2008: The Comeback Artist. You all know The Comeback Artist; the washed up star (or band) that tons of people liked a few years back that decides after years of poor social and financial choices that they want to restart the cash flow that resulted from their music career. So they gather their similarly washed up buddies, hire a new publicist, tell a few journalists that “they couldn’t stay away from the music” and head into the studio to create The Comeback Record. A few months later and you can’t walk down St. Catherine or take a city bus without being bombarded with ads for “the triumphant return of *insert artist*!” Pretty soon after that most mainstream media will be declaring “it’s their best record since *insert groundbreaking album*” and everyone who shops at Wal-Mart won’t be able to check out without being prompted to add 17.95 (plus tax) to their bill. The thing will go platinum in weeks and the artist will return to the cushy lifestyle to which they’ve been accustomed. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
This sort of tactic is not a new phenomenon. In fact it’s practically a time honored music industry tradition at this point. That said; 2008 saw no less than six mainstream pop/rock comeback attempts, most of which were met, to the surprise of absolutely no one, with “mediocre at best” reviews but absurdly high sales numbers. However, it’s ultimately not the existence of these albums that matters as much as their implications on the music industry as a whole. Especially considering what these albums mean to up and coming independent artists.
It’s simple math really: why would a major label invest any money in a band like Brooklyn, New York’s Matt and Kim (myspace.com/mattandkim) and their both radio and club friendly dance rock jams when the New Kids on the Block just reunited? Answer: they won’t; especially in a collapsing economy where sure things get even surer and all less established artists are risks too big to take. Industry money has always tended to gravitate toward the established success stories and the less money there is, the more it will inevitably end up in the hands of The Comeback Artist. However, that money does not exclusively belong to the mainstream music industry, but to the entire music industry. Therefore, Comeback Artists not only take money away from independent artists, but from independent record labels as well. While Matt and Kim (and other artists like them) may be entirely happy to remain on an independent label, if that label (and others like it) are hemorrhaging money, then eventually these highly talented but unexposed artists will find themselves without financial support and without that it becomes nearly impossible to continue creating music. I believe most people can agree that this is an outcome to be avoided.
So here’s what you can do: Matt and Kim’s new record, Grand, hits stores on January 20th. If your store doesn’t have it, ask them to order it. I can pretty much guarantee it’ll end up on quite a few 2009 “best of” lists and will bring a smile to your face no matter what. Just because the bus shelter doesn’t tell you to buy it, doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. After that, check them out on MySpace. Chances are they’ll have more than a few other bands you can check out that need your money a helluva lot more than Guns n’ Roses.