Artist: Golden Gurls
Title: Typo Magic
Keywords: “Shoegaze”, “Indie” Rock, ’90s
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
We at Yeah I Know It Sucks know it when it sucks. Sad to say, this is one of those times.
My first problem with this album was the PR, most of which was highly misleading. “Shoegaze”? I heard nothing of the sort. ’90s? Even the worst albums from that time period that I’ve listened to were better… at least many of them came across as though the artist were actually trying to pull something off to make themselves sound unique or memorable! One of many disappointments I experienced while listening to this dull-as-fuck indie rock album is that it is just very blah, middle-of-the-road – so unlike anything you’ll read about it on the label’s website. Reading through most of the PR, I came to the conclusion that if I were going to write a positive review of an album like this it would probably sound something like: “Ugh… *fap fap fap*… Dinosaur Jr… *fap fap fap*… Pavement… *fap fap fap*” – you know, bands who probably get a dollar every time their name gets dropped (well, maybe more like 25 cents. Only groups like AC/DC or Pink Floyd make a whole dollar from a name drop). And then, after blowing through a box of kleenex, I’d just roll over onto a futon and pass out, content in the knowledge that a check would be arriving in the post about a week from now. I don’t even think most of those reviewers listened to the album they received for how often the reviews sound like they’ve been shit out on an assembly line… standard introduction meant to drum up interest, a mandatory handful of typical and obvious rock music references, over-stated praise and voila! Done! I think it’s telling that most of the albums we receive for review here don’t come with PR. PR seems mostly the reserve of cock-mongling industry types… the independent arts have no need for it, except when their intent is both to sell a lot of records in a big hurry and the skill / talent of the artist(s) isn’t enough to merit it’s sale, in which case they are only mirroring the corporations that bring us hyped up shite like Bieber or Lady GaGa. When that’s the case, the only tactic left is to push as hard as possible to get those sales. Fucking awful practice, if you ask me, and terrible for the arts generally.
My second problem is with the genre of “indie”. I can no longer contest that it’s a totally meaningless term, but I’ve long had a problem with “indie rock” and, particularly, it’s cousin “indie folk” for many other reasons… it’s difficult for me to get into homebrew rock music at all these days due to how oversaturated everything has become. It’s like the Hollywood-ized overculture (read: superimposed) version of the underground music, film and general art scene. It’s the only form of independent music that seems to get any legitimate exposure, because regardless of who we are, where we came from or what we’re into, we’re all supposed to buy into The Great Rock & Roll Hype Machine – even electronic musicians are supposed to “rock”, become not a faceless producer of quality tunes for us to dance to, socialize alongside or experience on a personal level, but rather a focal point of mediated attention, a spectacle. Hence how “indie” rock began to really come up in media around the time that geek / nerd culture began to be taken seriously and treated as a demographic in it’s own right, it’s obsession with vintage and the hopelessly uncool appropriated to become “retro” and “ironic”. It’s the new face of rock, guys, and you’re going to want to go in eyes wide open as the next gang of four show you just how much restraint it takes behind a guitar to seem so aloof and ineffectual. Or quirky! *shudder* While many bands are only unconsciously complicit in this, it’s still as if the greatest aspiration of most indie rock groups is to land themselves on Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, or to come up with that song that makes it to the ears of a moneyed micro-industry exec… one who will carry it so far as to have it play in the background as Michael Cera and Zoey Deschanel “almost-fuck” in the next big nerdy Hollywood rom-com indie film. Awkward! Surely you’re not completely fucking tired of watching a director vent his frustrations at age, beauty and sexlessness in his next film about a manic pixie dreamgirl who courts a sad, pathetic, hopelessly boring loser in his 40s to the tune of a pseudo-obscure indie folk rock soundtrack, right? I think one of the major things I noticed about this album is that it comes off as though it’s trying to enter the canon, the fleet of albums sounding precisely like what I’ve just described above, but is utterly failing at it. Hard.
In fact, the glaring failures of this album are what have caused me to feel so frustrated by it. It fails to live up to it’s own PR, it fails to achieve the sound it so clearly was after… and that album artwork… just makes me feel dirty inside…
… thus, I am unable to do a track-by-track review of this album. I will spare the artists this, knowing how I have unfairly targeted their genuinely lackluster album with the burning rage that has built up over such a time spent hearing a hundred albums of it’s kind and being subjected to the new cult of trendy dweebish. I was uncool before it was cool, hurr! What I might instead ask is, what are the positive aspects of this album? Not everything is negative, after all. I’m glad that the Damnably label is one dedicated to releasing some of it’s music on vinyl. Like tape labels, floppy labels, and most CD-R labels I’ve come across, I am happy when I see people trying to keep what are regarded as “obsolete” mediums alive. I suppose my criticism is that I wish more of the labels I’ve seen doing vinyl, like Damnably particularly, were putting better music out! This label has a budget that has perhaps resulted in it’s oversight? For instance, the Bored Spies’ ‘Summer 720’ b/w ‘沙鼠E’ that KN reviewed not long ago was even produced by the same guy who produced Smashing Pumpkins and Liz Phair… though we are assured by Spin Magazine (how much did that cost?) that it has more in common with his work with atmospheric groups like Tortoise. Personally, I felt the same as Kai, that it sounded like a producer resting on his laurels, so bored with the material he couldn’t inject even the barest hint of interest into it in the studio. His answer was gloss… it sounded like any grit or edge had been smoothed over in production, if there had been any in the first place. Big *yawn*. So, I mean… if you were to take a sampling of the artists we review on a somewhat consistent basis, there is a massive amount of talent, originality, awesomeness there. Not saying necessarily that anyone needs to be swept up and made to serve capitalist ends, but that all of them are absolutely cool enough to have something pressed… way cooler than a lot of what gets pressed, in my absolutely honest opinion. We’re talking… the sort of music that is pushing the limits of what is possible, feeding our minds and bodies with sounds from beyond the vales of our imaginations, inspiring us all to think about everything in new ways. Every single day that I open my ears to these artists I’m having my mind blown. Being such a lover of sound and music, it’s one of the major reasons why I love the free scene. If only we could one day liberate the production of medium formats like vinyl as we’ve liberated sound!
Anyway, I suppose I’m off for now… ah, to watch the other Golden Girls do their thing. xD Here’s a link to the Damnably label’s release page for Typo Magic, in case you’d like to purchase it or read more about it elsewhere. As always… [words of wisdom signaling my departure] <- sorry, total brainfart on my end. Later!