The Glasvegas Dilemma: To Be Bad or Bland?
It's been a while since I wrote a review as negative as the one I gave Glasvegas for the Scottish band's show at the Black Cat last Thursday. Some people think that for a show to get so seriously panned it must be totally unbearable -- an absolute trainwreck that's completely unlistenable. That wasn't the case with Glasvegas. It wasn't any of those things. It simply ... was. And to me, that's much worse than an unlistenable trainwreck.
After all of the name-calling and cursing, Matt Whitehurst of Psychedelic Horse[expletive] made a pretty good point at the end of our epic sit-down. "No one's [expletive] wild anymore. Nothing crazy happens. No one tells the truth because everyone's so afraid of what everyone else is gonna think, and their image. Everyone's afraid of being pretentious. And it's like -- pretension is necessary to advance art. And honest criticism is necessary to advance art. Failure is necessary to advance art. And everyone's so afraid of all of those."
Glasvegas will never fail. It's impossible for the band to fail. Everything about the band is calculated, safe, right down the middle. Honestly, there's not much to differentiate them from Snow Patrol (which defended itself against charges of being truly boring by likening itself to the Village People), except that Glasvegas's songs aren't quite as memorable and they have more indie cred.
Maybe I'm coming down on them a little too hard, but it was impossible to get any sense of personality from the band when I saw them. It was like they plucked four competent musicians (well, three plus the drummer) off the street; gave them a smoke machine, a bunch of U2 records and a couple of Jesus and Mary Chain records; and said, "Get to it!"
When I see a show, I want to feel like I'm getting to know the band, at least on some level. That's the whole point of going to a live performance; there should be some sense of urgency or connection. Even if a band stands with its back to the audience the entire time, that's saying something. And with Glasvegas it was completely lacking. It was like eating at a decent chain restaurant. It happened, it was wholly inoffensive, and then it was over. While that's actually my preferred outcome when it comes to food (don't ask), it's the opposite of what I want with music. I prefer greatness, but if that's not happening, then be ridiculous, be different -- be anything but "fine." The show may be awful, but at least it will be a distinctive kind of awful.
The very last thing this world needs is more competent, unmoving rock-and-roll. That's what offends me the most.
By David Malitz |
April 1, 2009; 11:09 AM ET
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