The Jonas Brothers aren’t the problem. And we can’t blame Kanye West’s ego, Rolling Stone magazine, or the hype of the next U2 album. Nor can we blame The Eagles for charging $250/ticket to their shlocky concerts. And it’s not Kid Rock’s fault, and we cant blame Toby Keith. (OK, we can blame those last two guys for being no-talent symptoms of some things that are horribly wrong with society and popular music.)
To attempt an analogy, it’s almost like getting so caught up in the salaries, scandals, steroids, stadium-naming rights for corporations, merchandise marketing, and TV ratings that swirl around professional sports that it’s easy to forget that these are just games that we all played ourselves as kids and could simply go outside and play again right now with other people (if we still played outside and interacted with other live humans).
Somehow we’ve all managed to lose sight of the fact that music is…. MUSIC. It’s not product, though it certainly has been marketed and sold as such. Music is not a popularity contest, despite what millions of American Idol fans have been programmed to believe. Karaoke is not music. Guitar Hero is not music. Your myspace page and your iPod playlist may contain music, but it, itself, is not music.
Music is Girl Love’s Distortion’s debut CD, Earth Beings on Exhibit (Etxe Records). I say that because it’s not pretentious. Sure, they look cool in the photos and they made damn sure that the CD sounds great, but they aren’t trying to look cool or sound marketable or capitalize on a niche or do anything but just… play… music. So it’s aptly titled: Earth Beings on Exhibit…. This is us, this is our art. It is rock music, and like it or not, it is real.
And that’s what’s so rare. GLD is a band of actual people making artistic alternative guitar rock. As if that’s not a horrible and generic enough label, I’ll try to categorize it and “tell you what it sounds like,” even though that’s also part of what’s gone wrong. I hear a strong Sonic Youth influence even if it doesn’t actually sound like SY per se. But the elements are there: the guitar prowess, the feedback, the dissonance, the artsy factor, the presence of both male and female voices, the unconventional song structures juxtaposed among flashes of catchy pop (like the houseful of shaggy-looking weirdos living on the same block as the clean-cut Normal American Family).
While it’s great that technology and access has enabled millions of people to “start a band” and made it easier for existing bands to distribute and promote their music in creative new ways (and often without the “help” of Traditional Record Companies), it’s also spawned a whole new generation of amateurs posing as pros. And if they have the coolest clothes, the right haircuts, and a little bit of money behind them, you might not notice that they suck.
Well Girl Loves Distortion doesn’t suck (how’s that for a glowing endorsement?). They have serious chops to go along with their creative eyes and ears. Lead guitarist and bassist Steve Rubin manages to harness the fury of Crazy-Horse-era Neil Young guitar freakouts and filter them through the tasteful simple/unique approach of someone like The Edge. Guitarist/bassist Chris Goett compliments Rubin perfectly as a songwriter and player and manages to give his own songs a classic Lou Reed/David Bowie baritone that offsets Rubin’s imperfect inner Thom Yorke. Drummer Jenn Thomas isn’t afraid to let all of the creative voices in her head sing out loud, and it’s always refreshing to see and hear a drummer who plays a creative role within the song and makes the drums a real instrument. She doesn’t try to be Neal Peart but still manages to do more than just play along and keep a beat.
GLD’s Earth Beings on Exhibit CD is proof that real people still make real music and, in treating it like a serious art form while not taking themselves too seriously, the result is real good.