Next Great American Band, Episode Three

After missing last week’s show, curiosity got the best of me and I tuned in to take some more punishment in the form of the Next Great American Band show’s third episode. It seems to have settled down into a kind of routine mediocrity, with nobody really standing out as the band to beat. Here are my observations on tonight’s performances, which included the bands doing one original song and one from Elton John and Bernie Taupin—bonus points to the show for acknowledging both John and Taupin, btw.

Sixwire—Their original, “Gotta Get Away,” was nothing special, and it didn’t even come across as particularly country, their chosen genre. Their Elton John song, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me,” was a nice choice for their harmony vocals, but there was no real subtlety to their version. Judges loved them, though. They’re the most “professional” sounding band on the show, which helps them both with the judges and the audience, who are the ones with the votes.

Tres Bien.—This was funny—I sat there while they played, “How I Feel,” their original song, thinking how much of a total Yardbirds rip-off it was, and then Dicko observed the same thing in his comments. I like their energy and enthusiasm, no matter how derivative they are–they remind me a lot of another very derivative, yet fun band, the Woggles. “Love Lies Bleeding” was a gutsy choice for a cover, if they indeed picked it themselves—it’s not often you hear this without its lengthy instrumental intro, “Funeral For a Friend.”

Franklin Bridge—“Love’s Fool,” their original song, had a lot of ideas that went nowhere –Not much to this tune, unfortunately. “Philadelphia Freedom” was the obvious choice for these Philly guys, but an overly busy arrangement ruined a great pop song. These guys need a good producer to beat some discipline into their song arrangements—again, Dicko and I agree.

Clark Brothers –“Country Time” was more of their fast picking, upbeat signature style, but
“Country Comfort,” was the most off the beaten path song choice of the night. That will probably hurt them because people don’t know it very well, but they sounded really good doing it. More country than Sixwire with half the band.

Light Of Doom—no good answer to the “how’d you get your name” question. Original song was “Light of Doom”, same as the band name, a sure sign of lameness in any band. These guys belong at the high school battle of the bands, where they’d kill, not on a national TV show competition where the judges can call them a ‘gimmick’. Points off for not knowing Bernie Taupin’s last name, then mispronouncing it when it’s stage-whispered to you.
Their take on, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” shows what a good song can do for a band that’s adequate musically but lacking in their own songs—this was the best they’ve sounded yet.

Dot Dot Dot–I think I liked this band better when they were called the Thompson Twins. Actually kind of a cool 80s retro sound on the original, “Stay.” “Your Song,” was probably the most faithful, note-for-note cover of the night for the first and last line, then they tart it up with their 80s retro style in the middle section–Makes me wish they’d done the whole song like they started and ended it, his voice actually sounded pretty good on those parts.

Cliff Wagner & the Old NO. 7 –“The Little White Chapel On The Strip” was another solid bluegrass tune, and “Honky Cat” was a nice choice, given a slippery, Leon Redbone-style Dixieland vibe.

The Muggs – I started out liking this band but tonight’s performances were awful. “Should’ve Learned My Lesson,” their original song, was simple, derivative blues riffage, and “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues,” well, for a heavy blues band, I guess a song with “blues” in the title is appropriate, but it really showcased the limitations of the lead singer’s voice. These guys will be gone next week, I’d bet.

Rocket
—“Future Ex-Boyfriend” is more of their bratty girl punk-pop? I like these girls a lot more than some of the other bands in this competition, fun stuff. Even “Rocket Man was a respectable version, with an arrangement that fit the band’s sound. Gotta agree with the judges that the singer’s voice doesn’t fit the intensity of the songs—too cutesy.

Denver and the Mile High Orchestra – “All Night” sounded like a Barry Manilow song, not necessarily an insult from me but it was way too lounge-y, like something you’d hear in a hotel ballroom on New Year’s Eve. Ditto for “I’m Still Standing.” I’d dig these guys if I was drinking champagne at an open bar party, but can’t say they do much for me in this venue.

The Hatch and The Likes Of You were cut, and rightfully so—they were generic modern rock/pop with nothing to distinguish them from any other band.

I’m still waiting for a reason to keep watching this show, like a band that steps up and makes it worth rooting for them, but it hasn’t happened yet.

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