Music

CMJ Music Marathon 2008: From Top Draw to Taco Bell

Thomas Hauner, Steve Stirling, John Bohannon, and Vijith Assar

Whether they were looking for a quick blast of blog action or a record deal, over 1,000 bands poured into New York City looking for that elusive ounce of praise that could elevate them from a gaggle of fans to the Gossip Girl soundtrack.

The Worst

Adept

Saying that a singer sounds as though he swallowed the microphone during a performance could be seen as something of an insult… in this case it’s actually kind of true. The singer bounced around with the mic hanging out of his mouth, creating a hazy harsh fuzz over the simple new wave melodies being cranked out by the rest of the band. This duo (supported by members of Bonne Aparte) were decent when they were on point, but those moments were scarce. (Steve Stirling)

 

Boo and Boo Too

Lose the echo-soaked voice and the A Place to Bury Stranger rip-off riffs and we might have ourselves a band. These guys weren’t terrible, but the singer obviously had no confidence in his voice and the guitar riffs were about as mundane as Johnny Foreigner’s haircuts. There is at least potential here, and I would love to see this young quartet act on it. They just have to start being themselves instead of the sum of their influences. (John Bohannon)

 
Chester French

Aren’t those the Harvard dudes who got signed by Pharrell? They are indeed. And it seems signing a major-label deal prematurely already swelled their heads. Not only was singer D.A. Wallach miserably off-key and his vocals muddled -- a bad thing if your style is saccharine lounge pop -- but he was also dictatorial from the beginning, demanding the meager crowd put their “fucking hands up!” in a fascist fist just like him. They kept screaming orders, everyone shifting awkwardly each time, matching their desperate attempts at creating some sort of live experience. (Thomas Hauner)

 
Die! Die! Die!

Sometimes playing as if you were in front of a packed house can elevate your performance. Not here. These generally furious rockers looked confused and dejected by a meager crowd, who acted similarly towards their scattershot set as Die! Die! Die! romped and rolled around the floor, trying to play off a vibe that didn't exist. (Steve Stirling)

 
Friday

I'm throwing every band that performed this evening under the “Worst” banner since it seemed like none of them would let me in. Save for a single lackluster set from Portastatic at the top of the evening, I spent all night walking around lower Manhattan from one club to the next only to be told that it was sold out or find an impenetrable wait outside the venue or learn that my supposed all-access pass was no longer being accepted. The only saving grace was a trip to Taco Bell. (Vijith Assar)

 
Johnny Foreigner

After going back and listening to this English trio, it’s hard to take anything they did seriously. Maybe it’s the fact that they were ten years too late coming to America with a sound that was already worn out by the time it worked its way into the mainstream here, or maybe it’s the fact that the songs were just plain boring. Either way, I’ll steer clear of any future American appearances. (John Bohannon)

 
Longwave

When roughly 95% of your sound is genuinely banal, it takes one hell of a live performance to make up for it and convince people you are in fact singular and worthwhile. But alas Longwave fell pathetically short. Aside from their striving frontman -- who was unassuming enough to simply blend in -- they were depressingly listless and completely void of expression. I get that you’re from Brooklyn and playing in NYC for CMJ is no pithy achievement, but surely performing means something, anything, to you! Best to step aside for the dozens of other Williamsburg bands who are willing to play with some alacrity. (Thomas Hauner)

 
U-God

I don’t even know where to get started with this. What a train wreck of a set and an even worse portrayal of an MC way out of his prime and his realm. Go back to the drawing board and get off the Wu train. (John Bohannon)

 
Women

Hype is a terrible thing, and I heard it in spades for Women in the weeks leading up to CMJ. They had performed a ton of shows in a two-day period and unfortunately I saw the last one in this series. It sounded distant and uninspired and while I'm willing to believe they're a better band than that, they weren't on this particular evening. (Steve Stirling)


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