We were among the 200 or so Portland denizens duped by the hype last night at SPACE Gallery for the Honey Clouds CD Release. We’ll do two versions of this review, the first is for you movers and shakers on the go, who want a little summary nugget; the second will be for those of you who like to read opinions, specifically our opinions.
Short and sweet: What the fuck?
Longer and sweatier: The Bollard called Fall on the Honey Clouds “the much-anticipated sophomore release” which is a pompous (though industry standard) way of saying “my friends are putting out another CD with a lot of the same songs as their first one, but this time they mastered it or something, I don’t really know why they didn’t just write new songs, am I the only one confused here?”
But the former is a way to make something of little significance feel bigger and more important to the public at large, and in this case it worked. SPACE was packed, even before Gully took to the stage. Who? Gully, of course, we’re talking one of Portland’s two favorite bands, according to SPACE’s promotion. The other local fave? The Rattlesnakes, conveniently also on the bill! What a deal! If these two aren’t two of your favorite bands, why don’t you just back up your fancy pants and move to New York “The City That Believes in Quality Control” City, mister! Side note: can major metropolises have sarcastic middle names?
We have to imagine we were not alone in wondering what the hell was up with Gully and the Rattlesnakes, each competing to see who could play more sloppily and sing more discordantly. Ignore the fact that the music was unarguably abrasive to the human ear. Try to ignore that. But do not ignore that these bands are lauded for precisely that which makes them unlistenable. Who are the ad wizards who came up with this one? Is Karl Rove a music reviewer now? The SPACE calendar called it “noisy pop festivities.” The thing is, noise-pop can be done. Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Yo La Tengo, Velvet Underground, millions of other successful bands use noise, i.e. feedback and screeching guitars, in a poppy manner. The critical distinction is that with the pros, you know they have the ability and talent to play cleanly, yet they are choosing to utilize the noise-techniques for a desired effect. With our local favorites, you get the idea that they have no choice. And proof is in the fact that the bands are SLOPPY. Seemingly unrehearsed. First time gathering in ma’s attic. Yet they’re on stage where mistakes are accentuated. Why are we made to feel like snobs if we think a band playing at one of our only local indie rock clubs should be held to a standard at least as high as “modest ability at instruments, have played these songs together before”?
And who won, you’re asking? After careful deliberation, we will crown Rattlesnakes with having played more discordantly and sloppily. If we found out they decided to pack it in and sell insurance, we’d be unsurprised and celebratory. Unfortunately, this is Portland, and of course not only are they playing again, but they’re playing again tomorrow. So much for spreading shows out (in other cities bands cannot play certain clubs if they have shows booked two weeks on either side of the gig).
But we didn’t come to see the opening bands, we came for the headliner, the Honey Clouds. The clouds hung on either side of the stage could have foreboded the sonic storm about to rain down. If this is pop, or noise pop, or whatever you want to call it, where are the pop hooks? Trey Hughes’s melodies are boring, like someone splattered paint on some sheet music and called it good. The songs all plod along in a mid-tempo 4/4 trot. The album may be the band’s sophomore release, but the only thing sophomoric was the musicianship (zing!). If at a show you don’t enjoy the songs, at least a night can be redeemed by an impressive guitar solo, or some sort of musical eyebrow-raiser. Last night the only redeemer was the $2 PBR. Song to song, the set blended into a forgettable landscape of ear-crying and wondering where to go for late night munchies (nowhere, unfortunately).
This all speaks to a greater issue we cope with here in our fair Port City: a lack of unbiased opinion and a lack of standards. If bands like Gully, Rattlesnakes and Honey Clouds are heralded as Portland’s best, sure that makes those guys (and gals) feel good, but someone who isn’t friends with them will read that, hear them, snort, and write off the whole scene, and they’d be justified in doing so. If every review you read takes the collective cock’n'balls of the band and deep throats them, how are we to know when the music is actually good? Giving a favorable review to a piece of shit hurts everyone and helps no one. The band falsely thinks they’ve created a masterpiece when really they should be returning to square one, practicing, rehearsing, and striving for improvement. And the non-musician public quickly learns to disregard any words of praise, head to Bull Feeney’s for whatever cover band is playing, and scoff at the notion of paying $6 to see three local bands. [Cue reference to the boy who cried wolf.]
We have work to do, people. Call a terd a terd, call an awesome band awesome, but never cross those circuits. It takes everyone! We can do this, people, can’t we? If not, we’re moving to New York.