Monday, January 7, 2002 @ 2:06 PM
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The other day I got a package through prison mail from a girl named Hilda. It was kind of a belated Christmas gift, and it came complete with a card and photo. She looked to be about twenty-five years old and about a hundred and fifty pounds overweight. We’ll put it this way, one Polaroid wasn’t exactly going to encompass the wide range the girth she possessed. I’d like to say that her pudginess resulted in an automatic sexual disqualification for her, but….well, let’s be serious -- I’m incarcerated and not that picky anyway -- hell, at least I admit it. Damn. Anyway, all she did in her card was go on and on about how she liked most of what I wrote but also stated clearly that she didn’t always enjoy my cracks targeted at the grotesquely obese and the elderly. The other point of contention she had with my articles seemed to center on my venomous hatred for Creed. After all, she said, “They’re so energetic and spiritual.” Other than that, she wrote that she mostly just felt sorry for me and felt as though I needed direction. As a token of her affection she included a cd by this band named Default entitled The Fallout. Hilda claimed that this offering might just change the way I thought of this “important, heartfelt” music.
I put her card on the stereo and threw in the disc. I only got through the first two or three songs before I found myself imagining nice rooms full of expensive office furniture situated in high-rise buildings where record executives get together weekly to discuss the most lucrative ways to market their products. Their meetings, doubtlessly attended by well groomed people in finely tailored suits and brilliantly shiny pinky rings, would cover every aspect of the bands they represented -- everything up to and including the types of music they want to market to the cd purchasing community.
“Which one of these bands should we sign, Dominic?”
“Well, Peter, I think that if we stick with the data shown on the “musical projections” pie chart detailing potentially lucrative trends for the next fiscal year, we should seriously consider adding this band, Default, to our roster.”
“You think it might be financially beneficial to our gross?”
“Of course, they simply represent a new branch of a proven commodity. I’ve heard their demo, and it is damn near impossible to tell these guys from Creed. Just look at how many units they’ve moved!”
“My goodness. That sounds solid, Peter. Lets do it. Let’s make Creed II. Hey, if that doesn’t happen, Puddle of Mudd II might not prove to be bad either.”
Thank the Lord for an open market where labels are free to focus on short-term financial benefits rather than cultivating the careers of talented musicians. Otherwise, this group simply wouldn’t be making music right now. It’s rather fitting that the second person thanked by the band on this disc is their A&R man. Maybe they’ll be smart enough to understand that since they’re making a product here rather than music, they’d be well served to pay attention to every damn word this guy has to say. To believe that this group is being promoted by their label for any other motivation than the acquisition of a quick buck is just flat dishonest. If you don’t believe me, pick it up yourself—anyone who can say with a straight face that Default’s lead singer, Dallas Smith doesn’t try to sound exactly like some type of Eddie Vedder -- Scott Stapp hybrid, must be a friend of the band. Gee, what a surprise that the production team for this album consisted of Rick Parahser (Pearl Jam) and Chad Kroeger (Nickelback). Nope, sure that’s just a coincidence -- probably had no effect on the sound of this band at all -- of course it didn’t. Don’t be cynical.
Default wants you to believe, as Hilda certainly does too, that these guys are a tortured, introspective bunch of Gap-sporting outcasts. Oh yeah, and these dudes hang out by the ocean too. See, that’s where the photo from the cover of their disc was taken. Their visages are blurred slightly because the band members aren’t quite as photogenic as Creed, but the effect is still there. Default is mysterious. Mysterious, whoopie!! And…uh, I guess they hang out at the dock and stare into the horizon a bunch too because that’s what the back of this selection depicts. Yep, that’s their life. Staring into the sunset and being sensitive while raping the musical legacies of other bands who just aren’t that good either. Great work if you can get it, I suppose.
The lyrics in the tunes they have written suggest that someone has left them. I guess. I would say that it is a woman, but the pronoun “she” or “her” is only stated three times on the entire disc. What the hell? Who knows, maybe they are just being intentionally ambiguous here -- don’t want to alienate any queers—they buy albums too, dammit. Hmm, or maybe they’re trying to be like Creed here and their songs are really talking about God or some supreme being or whatever they’re calling it in today’s interview. In any case, lines like “Today I woke up and you were gone, the whole day wondering what I did wrong. It’s like I’m falling from a mountaintop, my heart keeps pounding and it won’t stop,” just made me want to laugh. I wanted to picture pushing each member of this group off that cliff myself. Funny thing though, if I did push each member off and they were really locked closely in the throws of gravity, would the fact that their hearts were pounding wildly really be that much of a consideration? If it was, why bitch about it? You’re gonna bite it soon enough anyway. Just suck it up tough guys.
Musically they adhere to the formulaic templates left by their predecessors. You know what I’m talking about -- soft verse, loud chorus, soft verse. Don’t give me that “everyone steals” crap either. It’s the difference between pilfering a candy bar at a 7-11 or hot-wiring a Jaguar—one is definitely deemed by society as being more serious than the other. What I’m saying here is that this album is the musical equivalent of stealing a fleet of sports cars -- and uh, stealing them from old, fat people -- wait a second, make that old fat people who love God. Basically, they’re going to hell for this, darnit. That isn’t to say that if you’re into Creed or hanker occasionally for some watered down Pearl Jam, that you won’t like this—you will. Hey, those guys who deal in this type of thing for a living are counting on it—they’re probably right too. I could very easily see songs like “Wasting My Time” or “Slow Me Down” getting as many spins on radio stations as that abhorrent “slap my ass” song from Puddle of Mudd, and if that happens, I’m sure this band won’t care a whole helluva lot about what I think of the integrity of their product -- they are designed primarily to make money -- not be remembered.
When Default entitled their release The Fallout, I don’t think they knew just how appropriate this moniker is. They state on their website that their music is “set to rise far above a rock scene soiled with pimp posturing and emotional vacancy”. Yep, set to rise above that only to end up splashing around hopelessly in a soiled Porta Potty of musical boredom. This compact disc is the fallout of a transitional period in rock—one in which there is no clear direction being pointed out. The problem with groups like this is that they don’t care about being originators, instead they are content merely to feed off a musical carcass from the very lucrative past. Hey, it may even work. Default is currently being featured in Target’s new music section, and their disc can be purchased for eight or nine bucks just about anywhere. I realize that this review may cost me the affection of the rather buoyant Hilda, but that’s just going to have to be the price I pay in this instance for being honest. Basically, what you need to do is stay out of this overproduced commode full of watery, corn-laden turds and run like hell from this disc -- you could always use the ten bucks somewhere else. In this case I figure Hilda would have been better served to have just taken a pass on Default’s new one and merely picked up a copy of Sweatin’ to the Oldies instead -- maybe then she could have at least gotten her entire body into a single photograph.