oesn't it seem like there are too many bands these days? Too many hipsters? What happened to the time when finding someone cool to talk to was a coup, when gazes across a room meant, "Shit, you're the only person here who knows who The Fall is, aren't you?!" Now, thanks to a variety of reasons (soundtracks, the Internet, a post-Nirvana upbringing, indie bands getting over their fear of press) it's actually easy to trip over someone who has both Shins CDs in their collection and who can make a convincing argument about the worth of Serge Gainsbourg in a 21st century world.
Not that that should be something to complain about (anything that brings good art to the forefront of pop culture should be applauded). Personally, it's just a little weird to me, but then I'm a little older than most of the readers of this site. I've jumped all over "profound" fads in the past, only to find that later listens reveal the music to be too self-referential, or clever, or dated three short years after the fact. Now I'm more wary. And bands like Mayday can't get away with what they might have in the past. Not with me.
Here's the mix: Giant Sand, Ennio Morricone, Calexico, Pulp, Morphine, X, the great, open Wild West. Written down like that, this has all the elements of a sound I should love. I don't. Bushido Karaoke, Mayday's third full-length, is pompously grandiose. I can't even say the band doesn't make the above influences their own. In a real way, they do. They just sound like they found all the right records, studied them over the course of many all-nighters, then spit them back out without any of the heart. This is my complaint with a world filled with so much coolness. The kids know what to listen to, but they lose soul in the quest to find the next thing, to stay on the edge. I'm making an assumption about Mayday's background, of course, but that's what strikes me about Bushido Karaoke - it's slick, and too Musicology 101 for its own good, and ultimately a dull listen.
Ah, but how close Mayday was. It seems that just a couple of steps in the direction of sincerity would have fared much better for them. There are some arresting lines ("You may look dashing now / But I remember when you were beautiful" from opener "Pelf Help") and one can't fault the above-average musicianship. Too much sounds like a desert rock opera on cheap beer, though. Three songs sound like Pulp (and, oddly enough, the same Pulp song: "Bar Italia"), the INXS cover ("Old World New World") is a bad idea made worse by the fact that Mayday channels Poi Dog Pondering in the tune, and by the end of the CD it's clear the members of the band are cool people who need to spend some time being geeky without irony. It's telling that the lament of "Pelf Help" is over a friend who has left the poor fold and decided to get a job, have some money, and clean himself up. The narrator of the song claims this man now has no soul, but the listener, after a few spins of Bushido Karaoke only imagines said now-successful friend absolutely made the right decision. Sometimes, being hip is just too boring and being real is transcendent.
Reviewed by: Jill Labrack
Reviewed on: 2005-07-27