Friday, April 03, 2009

Oh No Not Stereo: 003

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The press materials for the Los Angeles-based band Oh No Not Stereo note that the group's music has been featured on MTV shows like Paris Hilton's My New BFF, Bam's Unholy Union and Meet the Barkers, that their sophomore album 003 had production and mixing help from people who have worked with Live, Incubus and Fall Out Boy, and that their music would likely be favored by fans of groups like The All-American Rejects and Head Automatica.

A few songs into the album, it's difficult not to think that these biographical details were intended as warnings rather than praise. Simply put, the songs on 003 are blandly derivative and indistinguishable from that ever growing glut of punk-pop bands currently targeting the pre-pubescent and barely adolescent music market. The album's tracks play like by-rote assembly line pieces just looking for a little MTV or PlayStation love; indeed, it's not hard to imagine these songs playing as Bam Margera attempts another half-baked stunt or as background music blaring in the next Skate video game.

Yet the album lacks guts and, worst of all, even the faintest hint of heart, emotion or righteous outrage; the press materials' boasting of the band's DIY aesthetic is more like a punch line than anything of real substance. 003 sports some of the most incidental music that has come across these ears in a long time, with an endless shitstorm of predictably crunchy guitars, gigantic hooks, fatass bloated riffs and reedy vocals filled with whine. With a sameness of sound that courses through the album's 50-minute running time, songs like "Let's Get It Started," "Get Over It" and "Hurricanes" congeal together into a single blob. Being charitable, a few songs might work individually as either a single or as part of a compilation album (maybe Now That's What I Call Mediocre Music Vol. 1). "A World of Your Own" features strings - strings! - and briefly suggests that the band could break from the album's narrow confines. But as an album, the songs fail miserably, with far too much repetition and slavish adherence to pop tones that become dated as soon as they leave the listener's ears.

So what are the songs about? It really doesn't matter. The rage and angst expressed in the lyrics usually sounds both hollow and benignly nonthreatening, a clich├ęd collection of sanitized punk sentiments mostly reminiscent of tortured freshman college poetry. "Shot Down By the Man" is about (wait for it) being shot down by the man and that most hallowed act of defiance: "No one believes anything you say/ You're never right/ The only thing that's left to do/ That means anything at all/ Middle finger in the air." Other songs read like a checklist of stereotypical rock images: cars offer salvation, Friday nights are wild and unhinged, men boast with machismo, women break hearts and...hey! Wake up - the album's not over yet.

Maybe it's a generational gap my 1990s indie ears cannot bridge. Given the current popularity of bands similar to Oh No Not Stereo, it's easy to see plenty of suburban kiddies getting dropped off at concert venues by their parents to see the band live. But for anyone over the age of 16 the album will likely be vacuous and empty, a sort of fourth-generation punk-pop that will leave most listeners wanting to go back to the primary source material. 003 is an also-ran wreck of an album in a musical genre that largely places style over substance, and in which the only thing that differentiates one band from another is its name.

1 comment:

HxC | Grunger said...

You're right it's incredibly predictable. Not too bad if you just feel like pop-punk though. The tracks are way to similar for it to actually be a good record with distinguishable highs and lows it's just like having a single on repeat.