Much 313 fizz spurt forth in last week’s LA Weekly in (yet another) feature about the “Detroit Sound.”
The somewhat limp piece (laweekly.com/ink/03/03/ reverb-pike.php) takes its coverage cue, as many of these new Motown things often do, from the 2-year-old Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit comp.
And if you’re not already sure how much to canonize the generation of Detroit bands that put the smoke-addled, sardine-packed, scenester lounge the Lager House on the map, this piece pretty much lays it out. Still, it does make one wonder about the net effect of the hype shitstorm dumped on the city over the last year.
To follow the paper trail of Detroit rock bands like the Sights, Detroit Cobras, the Von Bondies, the Dirtbombs, Ko & the Knockouts and now the Wildbunch, er, Electric Six (not to mention the White Stripes), you’d think Eminem and Kid Rock had better watch their asses.
Despite the “rumored $1 million signing” of the Von Bondies by the Detroit-enamored Seymour Stein, only the Stripes have come marginally close to any of their Detroit-area homeboys’ sales heels. Published figures put sales of White Blood Sells, er, Cells in the hundreds of thousands stateside. Hardly a match for Kid Rock’s latest, which, despite being considered a flop by industry gadflies, still boasts sales of well over 2 million. (Lest we forget that 8 Mile has already grossed into the hundreds of millions of dollars, and Em’s latest disc has shifted more than 8 million copies).
All the column-inches in the world have only yielded respectable-for-an-indie sales for the rest of the pack. To wit: According to Nielsen-SoundScan, the Von Bondies’ Lack of Communication has moved 4,000 units and the Dirtbombs’ Ultraglide in Black 4,500. And while that doesn’t include merch-table sales and other unaccounted-for road income, it may cover the van payments and the occasional Motel 6. (Remember, these figures don’t reflect the hothouse adulation of Detroit bands on the Continent and, in particularly, the UK.) Ever the realist, Dirtbombs drummer Pat Pantano makes a point of this very discrepancy in the LA Weekly piece (as he did stridently and humorously in a similar recent feature penned by former Ann Arborite and MT scribe Jimmy Draper on Detroit in the San Francisco Bay Guardian).
What the other Detroit natives quoted in the same story (Matt Hatch and Matt Smith, Ko Shih, Maribel Restrepo et al.) do admirably is continue to bang the drum for the fact that Detroit is a much weirder, isolated place than most people want to recognize. With hints dropped about the Detroit-recorded Whirlwind Heat disc, the Clone Defects upcoming full-length and new ones from the Piranhas and Witches, the buzz-influenced record-buying public (all 5,000 to 10,000 of ’em apparently) should keep an open ear toward the city.
So will the run of attention continue? Depends on how people respond to the Whites Stripes’ upcoming Elephant, the Von Bondies’ big-label debut, and to a Dirtbombs sound that’s not comprised of mostly soul covers.
But it’s In the Red Records owner Larry Hardy (whose label has put out sounds from Detroiters such as the Gories, the Demolition Dollrods, the Dirtbombs and Bantam Rooster for going on a decade) who gives the best quote in the LA Weekly piece. Regarding the inevitable Detroit-Seattle music-boom cliché Hardy coos, “‘The thing with Nirvana was, it reached everyone — not just people who loved music, but everyone I hated in high school too. But I don’t see morons liking bands like the Sights — they’re too smart. I don’t see people doing beer bongs to it.”
Speaking of bongs, Detroit’s newest UK press darlings the Sights recently returned home from a six-week US jaunt in support of Got What We Want. While in LA, Eddie “we don’t play record-company showcases” Baranek and the boys found themselves sitting in a Capitol Records exec’s office. Apparently so much label froth and pomp was just too much to choke down and the boys up and walked out in disgust. Yeah! The Sights get 10 points for not caving to weasel blather. And congrats are in order too, ’cause the band — which can’t so much as rub two nickels together — was just added to the bill of the prestigious NME Music Awards show with the Vines. The event will take place at the London Astoria on Feb. 12.
More Yankee Doodle dandies:
Two bands ignored in the LA Weekly piece, Paybacks and Hentchmen, are currently off in England for a series of shows. Leaving last Wednesday for the release of their UK-only split EP with London-based Rex Records (Rex did the first singles for the Vines and the Avalanche), the bands will play London, Brighton, Bath and South Hampton. In tow is Fags front man and not-so-limp-wristed guit-slinger John Speck, but because of Speck’s tour schedule, the Paybacks are still in search of a new guitarist who can do West Coast and European tours. Word has it that they are looking for someone who “rocks hard and is willing to spend long periods of time trapped in a tiny van.”
Whiney pee-pants department
The NME giveth and the NME taketh away: Mere weeks after naming Jack White the Coolest Person in the Universe in Perpetuity Forever (or whatever), the Limey ’bloid printed a fabulously bitchy anti-Jack rant from one Ryan Adams. In it, Adams calls White a “little-girl Jack White,” a “fucking ponce” and a “fucking movie star” and insists he turned down the role White took in the forthcoming American Civil War pic Cold Mountain. The story goes on to say that Adams is miffed because “he claims that White became precious after hearing Adams had changed some of the lyrics of White Stripes songs he was covering in concert.” Oh, Christ.Send bitch slaps, quips and rants to [email protected]