Thursday, January 12, 2006

Observatory: Belafonte and Deep Ellum

So, two articles of interest appear in this week's Dallas Observer, both by Sam Machkovech. The first is his review of the new Belafonte record Any Place is Better Than Here. And while we sometimes agree with the Belafonte boys' album title, we have to agree with Machkovech on their music. Nothing worthy of throwing into the Shitlist, but just plain old bland, Coldplay style Britemo pop. This is one of the reasons this blog was started in the first place... Because we are tired of bands like Belafonte in Dallas. Not that they play anything TERRIBLE per se, or that they are assholes or anything (none of us know any of them), but just that there has to be something better out there in a city so big.... And there have to be avenues of inspiration other than marketing. And that is what this band feels like... Marketing. A calculated sound designed to get chicks and sell records. Nothing wrong with that, seeing as how we aren't opposed to money or chicks per se. Its just that you can't have your cake and eat it too. If you want to make a little money, get some girls, and possibly have a chance to sign a major label deal (if you're good looking enough), then by all means start a band like Belafonte. Just don't expect people that take music seriously to shower you with critical acclaim if you do. If you want to try something a little more interesting, you might not make as much money or get as many girls, but you will be creating art mostly for art's sake, and in the process you might also make some money and get laid, although joining a Coldplay/Radiohead radiofreindly band would probably be easier if that is your goal. For now, Belafonte has chosen their path, and listeners will choose theirs. A bad review in a local newspaper usually does nothing to stop the momentum of bands like Belafonte, since most of their listeners don't give a shit what critics say (often with good reason I might add). However, they have not produced something of much artistic value, and should not be given a break just because they are a local band. There is obviously some musical talent in this group, and it is their first record, so maybe there is hope for Belafonte. But for now, they haven't given us much to get excited about.

The second is Machkovech's article about the demise of Deep Ellum. In it he states something to the effect that the bands playing in Dallas right now are the best we've ever seen in the city... Ever. We won't argue that there are some pretty good bands in Dallas, and that there are certainly many worthwhile places to go in this town, but the greatest time for music in ages? Are you kidding? And who are the great bands in Dallas these days? You've seen our band "It" list, which contains a couple bands that we love and a couple bands that we like. But thats it. We will agree that the state of Deep Ellum hasn't CAUSED the Dallas music scene to be, how should we put it, subpar. We think it is merely an effect, caused by the vast majority of Dallas bands with no talent and no imagination and the crowds that have been rightfully uninspired by them. Deep Ellum does suck, and if bands quit playing there permanently, no tears will be shed at this blogspot. I just wonder how the Dallas Observer can talk about the "great" local music scene with a straight face. Of course, they need something to write about and people to read it. That is why local papers often overhype local music: they want people to be excited about their articles, and they want their friends in local bands to succeed. Thats nice. But music fans in Dallas certainly can't be expected to rush down to Double Wide every time The Valentines or Golden Falcons play. If you look at places like Manchester in the late 70's and mid 80's, Minneapolis in the early 80's, Seattle in the late 80's, or Toronto and Montreal in the early 00's, you will find places that were more or less crap to live in as a band: no clubs, local press that didn't pay attention to local bands, and a general lack of interest from the public. What changed was NOT the addition of fancy new clubs (as Machkovech rightly points out), or that the public finally decided to stop being jerks and support their local scene, bro. What happened is that interesting people started making interesting music, and creating an atmosphere that people wanted to surround themselves with. Despite all the myth and exaggerations that surround the descriptions of these scenes that we get today, we can surely agree that something rose out of nothing in these places, and that it was because of the music and the people that made it... This means good bands, good marketing and good times. So we can agree that the closing of Trees does not mean the end of Dallas music, its just indicative of the low point that we have reached overall. Maybe something is starting to churn under the surface, but calling this the best era of music in Dallas is a little much. And if this is in fact the best time for Dallas music, we're going to move, but not after we go to Bill's Records and get our money back for that damn Hagfish CD we bought in 1994. They told us that THAT was the golden age of Dallas indierock!


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1:48 PM  

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