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Wednesday, Jan 19, 2011
by Natasha Simons
The boy band is dead! Long live the boy band!

I imagine that most of you had the time-honored Dick Clark countdown special on at some point during your New Year’s Eve. And, unless you were studiously avoiding Mr. Clark right around that all-important midnight hour—perhaps starting on your midnight amorousness early?—I imagine also that you caught the New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys joint performance, intended to advertise their upcoming tour together.  Perhaps you watched out of the corner of your eye, amused. Maybe you cracked a joke to a friend or partner about the increasingly inappropriate moniker of “boy”, suggesting the word was starting to lose all meaning for you. I doubt that, for most of you, you thought about the Backstreet Boys very much more after that.  But speaking for myself, and for a certain special contingent of ladies out there, the performance marked yet another stop in a very strange tour of duty.


Take it from a former super-fan: watching the Backstreet Boys perform after all these years is weird. Down one “boy”, the remaining four 30-somethings soldier on, having been unable to forge successful solo careers, and clinging somewhat remarkably to the decaying specter that is the boy band (even as I type the latter, the 12-year-old zealot in me cries foul at my once-unthinkable betrayal).  On New Year’s Eve, watching, cringing, at the less-than-stellar performance, I recognized that what I was watching was a show of relics going through the motions; it was as if something mummified had been raised from the dead, only to sing (croak) and dance (stagger) about the stage for some unknown purpose.


An anecdote: a friend of mine was unironically dragged to a Backstreet Boys concert a few years ago by a prospective girlfriend. As he tentatively swayed to the familiar music and swore never to call her again, he took stock of his surroundings. No one around him was over the age of fourteen. The music of his youth was no longer his, nor hers, nor for most of the fans who had once been so devoted.  These legions had been replaced by new ahistoric droves, apart from the initial formation and progression of the Backstreet Boys.


And what a progression, eh? Bursting onto the European pop scene in 1996, the BSB became internationally famous after only a few short years toiling in anonymity.  “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” climbed the charts. In 1997, they returned home to a loving public; hence, “Backstreet’s Back”. I, a ten-year-old girl, was part of that public. Having first joined the fanhood in order to fit in at my new suburban Texas elementary school, I quickly took to the enterprise with great zest. What follows now you will have to forgive me for.


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Wednesday, Sep 29, 2010
They’ve fought a volcano to tour North America, so the very least you could do is turn out to hear first-wave British shoegaze legends Chapterhouse bend nature to its will with howling guitars. It may prove to be the group's final act. Andrew Sherriff and Stephen Patman speak to PopMatters.

They’ve fought a volcano to tour North America, so the very least you could do is turn out to hear first wave British shoegaze legends Chapterhouse bend nature to its will with howling guitars. Chapterhouse begins its brief journey on Friday, October 1. It may prove to be the group’s final act.


Because fame is fickle, especially in Great Britain, Chapterhouse was swept up in the early ‘90s as darlings of “the scene that celebrates itself” before being unceremoniously dismissed as pointy-headed navel contemplators by a hyperbolic media suddenly in thrall to Britpop.


History has been far kinder to Chapterhouse, whose legacy has survived thanks to a stellar debut (Whirlpool), a genre-defying sophomore effort (Blood Music), and an expansive career retrospective which left its fans longing for more. With their North American tour looming, Andrew Sherriff and Stephen Patman took the time to speak to PopMatters.


“Bar another volcano, we’ll be there,” says Sherriff, joking about the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, which left Patman stranded in Japan back in May just as the band was meant to begin the tour it is finally able to undertake.


“Although we were psyched up and really wanted to come out and do the shows, we were also quite tired, because there was an intense period where we had the Japan tour and the Scala gig in London as well,” Sherriff said. “It was quite full on, and in a way we had more time to be relaxed for this tour. We’ve been taking full day rehearsals rather than evening rehearsals, and we feel that we’re in a better state to cope with this now.”


Tagged as: chapterhouse
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Thursday, Jun 24, 2010
The Manhattan leg of tour brings most of the New Pornographers' new CD Together to life

It was date night for many couples at the New Pornographers concert at Terminal 5 on June 19th, with most of the crowd wearing shorts and sundresses after a warm, blue-sky day in New York City.  Seattle-based group the Duchess and the Duke served up a low-key set, strumming guitars for sparse songs containing cringe-worthy lyrics such as “happy like a clam”.  Friend Oscar Michel subbed for the Duke Jesse Lortz after he sustained a bad hand cut halfway into the tour. Lortz was able to play tambourine, however, and sing along with the Duchess Kimberly Morrison. The group looked like it got its name from all the Renaissance fairs it attended; thankfully, the only thing it has in common with the New Pornographers is some whistling.


Meric Long of the Dodos made a cameo appearance in the first set, playing a drum before his band from San Francisco stepped it up with its signature explosive sound.  With Logan Kroeber at a drum set and Keaton Snyder behind a xylophone and other percussion, the Dodos treated the fuller audience to “a couple of new songs”, as Long said, before ending with “Fools”, a song which made it to the television last summer in a Miller Chill ad.


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Monday, May 24, 2010
Trainwreck is a loving celebration of bros, leather pants, and machismo. PopMatters talks with Kyle Gass about the new album and metal parody.

Along with Spinal Tap, Tenacious D (Kyle Gass / Jack Black) pretty much closed the book on metal parody. For Kyle Gass, the next step in the skewering evolution was ‘70s era Southern rock, and the result is the mulleted, wigged, and moonshine-fueled Trainwreck. Formed in 2002 and fronted by Gass (aka Klip Calhoun) and frequent Tenacious D conspirator JR Reed (you might remember him as Lee from the Tenacious D HBO series, immortalized in the Tenacious D song “Lee”), Trainwreck is a loving celebration of bros, leather pants, and machismo. The key to the gimmick is that musically, it works. Loaded with heavy, catchy riffs and sing-a-long anthems, Trainwreck’s debut album The Wreckoning pairs perfectly with a 12 pack of Keystone Light, Kodiak dip, and maybe some bad speed. After a successful run through the Midwest in March, Trainwreck is currently on their second tour of the year, and I sat down for a chat with Kyle Gass before Trainwreck’s gig in Chicago.


Tagged as: kyle gass, trainwreck
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Thursday, Apr 15, 2010
PopMatters meets the men behind the masks before their sold-out, April 5th appearance at Chicago’s Metro Theater.

Miike Snow are the International Men of Mystery of the electro-pop scene. Whether disguising their faces behind ghostly white masks or hiding behind their Jackolope logo, there is something coolly enigmatic about them. Swedish producers Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg were famous behind the scenes, crafting pop hits for Madonna and Britney Spears (the duo won a Grammy for their work on Spears’ Toxic) before recruiting American musician Andrew Wyatt to form Miike Snow. Their 2009 eponymous debut is a smooth hybrid of throwback soul, ‘80s synth, and electro anthems, with just the right amount of sex appeal and songwriting chops to attract the ladies and discerning hipsters alike. Finally getting to meet the men behind the masks, I sat down with Miike Snow before their sold-out, April 5th appearance at Chicago’s Metro Theater.



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