The Next Worst American Band

The next great American band

When Simon Fuller of American Idol announced the full-band version of “American Idol,” I’ll admit I was curious to see how the format would fit. Like a national ‘battle of the bands’, the show’s first episode included some good music and some wretched music—no William Hung eviscerations of pop songs, at least, since the really bad ones they only let us hear for a couple of seconds each in several still-painful montage segments.
The setting, a big outdoor stage in the desert, is ridiculous. Why not put them in a nightclub, small arena, or some other more natural setting for a concert than a big empty sandbox?

And tell me again about this being the search for a great American band when one of the judges and the host is from New Zealand

Not sure I’ll watch the rest of the season, and I’m sure that this doesn’t really deserve this kind of analysis (it’s just bad reality TV), but I was bored tonight, so here’s what I thought of the show and the bands presented:

Silly Happy family band–Not sure I’ve got the name right but who cares, since they started the show with a cover song. Said they’d quit playing music if they didn’t get through to the next round. Anyone wanna buy a guitar? Or an amp?

Tres Bien—retro band, which is hot these days. Pretty good sound, catchy song, good performance. They made it to the next round easily.

Light of Doom –preteen metal? Singer’s voice needs a few more years to mature, but they rocked harder than any pre-acne bunch of kids have a right to. Reznik wanted to say “no” but got whined into agreeing by Sheila E…. I can see his and the other guy’s reservations; it’s kind of like “Heavy Metal Hanson.” They won’t last much longer.

The Hatch—You’re from New York City, a major entertainment industry town (well, they’re from Brooklyn, but it’s close) and you play a cover tune? Even Hootie & the Blowfish do “Use Me,” better than this. Lame, but the singer’s cute so they get through.

Big Toe: a guy without arms who plays bass guitar with his feet? Take that, Jeff Healey! All the judges said no (not willing to give them a ‘leg up’, I guess), but I kind of liked the song they played.

The Clarke Brothers—Ringers! Ringers! These guys used to be part of the Clarke Family Experience, a country band made up of members of an 11-child family whose album I reviewed years ago. It was good, I recall, but the band went nowhere commercially. I think I even saw them play a live show once or twice, and they were pretty good live, too. I guess three of them grew up and decided they wanted to try again. They got through, impressing with an acoustic gospel medley.

Zombie Bazooka Patrol—“Better off Undead,” I think was the song, an entertaining acoustic rocking tune that reminded me a little of the Avett Brothers…wonder if they have any more Zombie-themed compositions up their tattered sleeves? They made it through, amazingly enough.

Dot dot dot—like a combination of Naked Eyes and Fallout Boy, New Wave Modern Rock? I’d agree with the judges on this one, they were the only ones that really looked like a rock band, so they easily made it through.

Northmont—derivative modern rock that sounded like a cover band, though I think it was an original song they played. And the singer climbed the rigging? This is American Idol Junior, not Bonnaroo, dude. The judges gave them a second chance to mess up again.

The Muggs—another band I’ve heard of before—they put out a pretty good garage-metal album a couple years back that I liked a lot. MC5 influenced stuff from Detroit, the judges loved it and rightly so, but they’re probably too retro and dated to get farther than the next round.

Fifi larue the gothic killer clown of heavy metal—okay, maybe there is a William Hung candidate here. This was so pathetic it wasn’t even funny.

Denver and the Mile High Orchestra—did anyone tell these guys that the nouveau swing revival was over a decade ago? Didn’t think so. Probably the most musically adept group of the entire show, but it’s a limited sound.

Zolar X—Star Trekking rockers, even this close to Halloween, are ridiculous.

Six Wire—“We represent today’s Nashville,” they said, “You might call it edgy country.” They even admit to having been signed and putting singles out but going nowhere. You can tell from their performance they’ve been through many a showcase opportunity, nailing their song, which itself wasn’t anything special but against all the other crap on this show they sound great.

Cliff Wagner and the Old No. 7 – named after the mule from “Grizzly Adams” but sounding like the house band from O Brother Where Art Thou? They were a pretty decent bluegrass band, and took the insults to their original song with a grain of salt, throwing a refrain of, “Like a Virgin”, bluegrass style, back at them when asked for something “not written by a 70 year old Raccoon Hunter.”

Franklin Bridge—Philly rockin’ soul. I want one of those yellow guitars, dude. Too bad it’s still a novelty to see an all-black rock band, this many years after Living Colour. Good stuff, and they have the kind of multi-ethnic appeal to go a long way in this kind of popularity contest.

Heaven Bound—just in case you thought all hot black girls could sing, this batch of babes proved otherwise in about fifteen seconds.

Rockette—Girl band doing a Ramones cover? Glad they’re kind of hot, because they weren’t very good.

Mezcal—Latinos who shoulda been shoe-ins with Sheila E as a judge—she even gets up and plays percussion with them for a few seconds. Alas, they weren’t good enough, even for Sheila.

So by my count, I only saw a half-dozen decent groups in the whole thing, not enough to hold my interest for a full season, I’d say. Unless the promised “theme nights” offer up some interesting twists, this one’s already deader than the desert it started in.


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