Sunday, May 09, 2004

And now... bad names for bands. Case study: Stoic. Problem: poor fit to projected 'tude. Illustrative stage patter:

So how many of you motherfuckers came out here to PARTY with STOIC?!?!

For what it's worth, they had what seems to be the judges' favored style at this year's WBCN Rock and Roll Rumble: technically superb, paint-by-numbers heavy metal, mixed with over-emoted stage patter about nonconformity and being your own person. (To which Stoic adds enough stuff about community and "the Boston heavy music family" to make me wonder if Shred hadn't somehow roped Amitai Etzioni into judging for the evening). And yet, in the controversy that erupted on local music web boards after they won over Ad Frank's finely crafted songs for the lovelorn and Black Helicopter's edgier art punk, Stoic's supporters wound up chiding Ad Frank for not falling in line with industry trends:

wake up--stoic is a machine and they wiped they literally destroyed the competition last night. listen to the radio--there are no bands that sound like ad frank or roxie on the radio anymore and i doubt there will be. stoic have a sound that is current, that is marketable. what is the point of making music that people can't get into? the heavy music scene is the biggest thing in this town. i'm sorry, but what use would wbcn have for some faggy band like ad frank? why should they get 3000 bucks and studio time if no one wants to listen to that music?

listen shithead--if you want people to tell you how great you are, look around you and adapt to the musical climate. indie-pop is museum piece. it is not selling and no one cares anymore. get some decent gear and make music that the kids are into. that's how you're going to get people excited about what you do and get on the radio. stoic have all that and more. why are you surprised they won?

And that's what this band is apparently about. Their stage patter has stuff about nonconformity and being your own person, but their bio in the Rumble program is all about business deals. It names the engineer who recorded their first album, the guy who owned the studio, the studio owner's partner in their current record label, the partners' goals in forming the record label, and the band's recording schedule before it gets around to naming a single actual band member, or saying anything at all about the music.

These are, reportedly, nice guys, and technically, they're very good at what they do. But this bio presents them as valued, but inessential employees hired by other folks to produce a product to order. ("Each member possesses an extremely diverse musical background", but none of them are apparently worth talking about). And the product seems, to me, to show it. The players and the band really look like they're playing the parts in somebody else's script, filling in the blanks with their own names, and a band name chosen by throwing darts at a thesaurus. ("PARTY with STOIC"!!! Umm... guys? Dictionaries are good, too. Definitions here; note particularly "indifferent to pleasure") The whole package seems almost designed to validate everything Thomas Frank ever wrote about corporations packaging and selling sanitized, neutered "rebellion".

The anonymous poster I quoted above said these guys "are a machine". There's been a lot of that from fans of Stoic, and a similar band that won another night in the prelims: "they're a machine."

Well, not quite. They're part of the machine. And that's the problem.

By the way, Thomas Frank is no relation to Ad, so far as I know, and I don't really know any of these people at all... but I have bought a couple of Ad Frank records.