Solid song writing and musicianship may still be sure fire ways to get your band noticed (or so I’d like to think), but more and more it seems as if another approach is coming to a head. It’s a strange aesthetic really. In the past, only the most skilled bands tended to garner wide exposure, but now that we are in the midst of the golden age of things like YouTube and Myspace, it’s easier than ever to put your music out there–for better… or for worse, and unfortunately the latter is often the case.
Terrible videos often become the most-watched clips on YouTube, and irony has saturated the culture. It’s actually becoming cool to appreciate things that either the general public despises or doesn’t appreciate. It’s a badge of honor to listen to music that your parents or neighbors would find grating or just plain weird.
Of course, some of the bands that I would classify as falling into this strange, hipster aesthetic I actually find myself enjoying at least on some level. MGMT comes to mind. The first time I saw them play (they opened for an Of Montreal show I attended sometime in the fall of 2005), I thought they were absolutely terrible. Entertaining? Sure I’ll give them that. It was kind of like a car wreck – you just couldn’t look away. Here were two white guys, not even playing instruments, but instead singing over shoddily produced, pre-recorded music. Occasionally, they would pull down an instrument suspended from the ceiling and pretend to play it, but that seemed to be as close as they came to actually playing. Fast forward to the release of Oracular Spectacular, and I admit I was hooked, but all the while, a little voice in my head kept saying are you sure you want to be listening to this? Are you sure this isn’t actually terrible?
Last night at the Cake Shop, was a perfect example of this strange phenomenon. The two bands in question are The Lovely Eggs and Schwervon!. When I first hear Schwervon! toward the beginning of the year, I was taken in particular by the track “Low Blow,” but I knew instantaneously, that this band would not be for everyone – not at all. Schwervon! is Nan and Matt: a couple based out of NYC who just sort of accidentally fell into playing music together and have been jamming now for about a decade. Their music is technically basic, straight-forward, and simple… but there’s something endearing about it… something that tips it over to enjoyable instead of grating. (1)
Schwervon: See? Endearing. (photo courtesy of Lippe)
Though I came specifically to see Schwervon!, the band that proceeded them also illustrated this conflict. British band The Lovely Eggs is like Schwervon! in many ways. They also are made up of a guy and a gal (David and Holly) and fall squarely into the DIY music scene. At times, Holly sings sweetly and demurely, but like Nan, she has been known to switch to a more aggressive style without any warning. (2)
The Lovely Eggs (photo courtesy of Darren Andrews)
But can we really take someone wearing a cowboy hat who sings about intentionally falling off a bike or eating cheese seriously? And what about the impromptu breakdancing? The shrieking? It’s hard to say, really. Yes, ok they have their charm. I found myself smiling when they played “Have You Ever Heard a Digital Accordion?” But the whole time I stood in the audience, I couldn’t help but feel as if I were a tightrope walker, teetering dangerously on the line. If I fell to my right, I’d declare their ‘music’ an ear sore, but if I fell to my left, well then they weren’t so bad after all.
Take a listen for yourself and let me know what you think.
(1) I found it interesting and fitting that Jeffrey Lewis, the king of the anti-folk movement, was wearing a Schwervon! t-shirt when I last saw him play at the beginning of the summer. Of course, the anti-folk movement is another source of this terrible/wonderful tension.
(2) Holly reminds me of a less mesmerizing version of Scout Niblett.