The technological innovations of the past decade have done much to even the proverbial playing field in the music industry. Prior to these innovations, a band’s main means of promoting itself was through relentless gigging, playing night after night in different cities and towns located within the same region. Along the way, a band would leave flyers in bars announcing its upcoming shows so that people would inevitably learn about the group while stumbling to the restroom. Reading a flyer while peeing—this was PR. Of course, bands still use these archaic means of promotion, but the Internet now allows a fledgling band to launch a full-on PR offensive through websites and online music publishing. Such is the case with Glister, an Australian quartet whose press release labels the group the “galaxy’s—yes, the galaxy’s—most hypnotic rock band.” Well, well, well this is a rather bold claim for a band whose new album, Be There Soon, indicates no clear record label.
That Glister has garnered a decent amount of press is a testament to its innovation and perseverance. The website depicts band members as cartoon action heroes, dressed in battle gear and ready to dazzle mankind with their musical skills; rather than wielding weapons, the Glister-bots come armed with instruments. You can even play several video games where you assume the characters of the various band members, who are faced with such dangerous, exciting tasks as skateboarding, surfing, building life-saving machines, and falling into holes in the floor before the roof crashes down. Then there’s the creative measures the band has taken to promote its album; by going to theorchard.com, you can download the band’s music. The record label, in essence, is an online music publisher. All of this is very impressive, if not downright admirable, if not for one, inescapable fact: Be There Soon isn’t half as engrossing as the band’s self-launched marketing campaign.
This isn’t to say the band doesn’t have its strong suits. To be sure, Glister is a solid bar band. The music exhibits the slack propulsion that compliments a nice buzz in a dive bar on a Friday night. The first single from the album, “Queensland”, has a thumping drum beat and catchy guitar riffs sprinkled throughout. Lead singer Samantha (the band only uses first names) possesses a voice that ranges from bluesy to cutesy, which allows the band to switch from harder-edged tunes to more sprightly-sounding songs. “Waking Up” is a combination of these two poles, blending pop-punk riffing with girl group harmonies. Samantha cites Belly as an influence, and she channels Tanya Donnelly’s saccharine sass to good effect here. Belly’s influence is also noticeable in “Spacedog”, which combines hard (but decidedly innocuous) riffs, a bouncy beat, shyly seductive vocals, and nonsensical lyrics about a cuddly character that has adventures. ‘‘Gepetto”, anyone?
Indeed, Glister is a capable band, but capable can be seen at any bar on any weekend. In the end, there’s not much to separate Glister from all the others bands paying tribute to their favorite bands by mixing and matching influences in original tunes. “Fuel for the Fire”, for example, is the band’s attempt at heavy metal, and while it’s an interesting listen, it sounds like a band trying to make a heavy metal song. Nothing of Glister’s own voice is present in the song, and this is the problem: no unique voice emerges within the album. Rather, Be There Soon sounds like a quick tour of ‘90s grunge and post-grunge, a Cliff’s Notes synopsis of what MTV was playing a decade ago.
Be There Soon shows moments of promise, but not enough to monopolize a spot in your CD rotation. It’s the kind of CD that manages to justify an impulse buy, but somehow gets lost among the others in your collection. Years from now, you’d notice it on the shelf, play it, and think, “This is pretty good”—only to put it back on the shelf to get lost once again. This doesn’t mean the band doesn’t have what it takes to be a success; Glister is definitely determined and clever. If only the band can incorporate as much ingenuity into its songwriting as it does online marketing, it will have the entire package. For now, though, we’ll just have to root for this foursome of guitar-toting action heroes.