Friday, March 24, 2006

All Hands on Hot One: Gryner disappoints

Casey Dorrell

An artist I've yet to discuss here, along with so many others, is Emm Gryner. She is, and long has been, one of my favourite artists. This is probably why I've avoided writing about her. The same can be said for my lack of commentary on all things Eels. But I digress.

Emm Gryner is indie in a time when so many "indie" artists really aren't indie at all. Without the necessary component of not belonging to a major label, it's not at all clear what commonality so-called indie artists now share. That they have been, or will be, on the O.C.? That they haven't been? That people outside the insular scene bubbles will never hear about these bands regardless of how big we think they are? Maybe I'll drop the indie label for the time-being, then, and simply call Gryner a "D.I.Y." artist.

Gryner has released four "studio" albums, a B-sides album, and two cover albums in the last decade - all on her own label, Dead Daisy Records, save for one. Her own material is typically introspective and lyrically commanding, while her cover material showcases her impressive skill for wild reinterpretation. It was with quite a bit of excitement, then, that I greeted the news that she'd formed a band.

Her new band is called Hot One and, while she plays bass and sings apparent back-up, she's joined by Nathan Larson (guitar, vocals), Kevin March (drums), and Jordan Kern (guitar). The members have been in an impressive roster of past bands, including Guided By Voices and Shudder to Think. Looking into any of the band-driven press reveals that Larson, who's made music for several movies, is the one that's spear-heading the project.

The band is overtly political, but what they're saying is unclear. I gather that they are upset with the Western world for being too fascist and not sexy enough. It comes off as vapid pseudo-politics set to glam rock infused with indie experimentation. Maybe there's an element of irony that I'm missing. Probably not. Regardless, it's amazing how so many talented individuals can combine to create such mediocre music. Their faux-military/messiah manifesto of a website should have tipped me off. Here's an excerpt from their equally absurd myspace:

"I think rock (and art in general if you want to extend the argument) has to be reclaimed. It's OURS. If it's not challenging, what is it doing? Is it the background to your dinner party? Of course this is a perfectly viable usage of music-as-furniture, it has a purpose. But rock has always been about rising up, about saying look at me! We can plug our intellects into rock, we can use it's potential kick-you-in-the-gut power to start to turn the tables on the forces that would oppress us and oppress others in our name."

Sure, fine. But suggesting that political rock or inventive rock is somehow absent right now is inane. Implying that Hot One lyrics like, "You a’re going straight to hell, Exxon and Shell" are apt to inspire political discussion is equally ridiculous. Regardless of whether one feels rock is in need of "saving", Hot One are not in any position to take on that task. One way to describe the band would be political experimental glam, but the best way to describe the band would be disappointing.

Update: They've competely overhauled their website today, and it is actually pretty funny. But then, being ironic about being political is hardly a new approach to rock.

Update 2: I've since realized that much of this article is a bit over-the-top in its negativity. It's really only the evangical presentation of the music that bothered me. The music itself, I don't particularly like, but it's well-played and as Frank (Chromewaves) asserts, "it sounds like they're having fun".

Emm Gryner - Dearg Doom
Hot One - Fuckin'
Hot One - Sexy Soldier

Dead Daisy Records

Comments on "All Hands on Hot One: Gryner disappoints"


Blogger The Trick said ... (24/3/06 2:53 pm) : 

I'm also a huge Emm Gryner fan, so this is very bittersweet news indeed. I haven't had a chance to listen to the new band's songs yet, but if they're as bad as you say, that really is a huge disappointment. Emm deserves to be in a kick ass band.


Blogger "Betty" said ... (24/3/06 3:11 pm) : 

Thanks for the opportunity to hear this before buying...I love her cover of Def Leppard's Pour Some Sugar on Me - which is on my newest podcast (Bunch of Betty's) - in case you are interested...nice blog, btw. :)


Blogger FRITZ said ... (24/3/06 11:07 pm) : 

Hello! I'm an old lady! I've never heard her before!

While the band does seem to be something I don't like, I have to say: she is phenomenal.

Thanks for the introduction. I'll reserve judgment after I've gotten more of her stuff into the computer. Refreshing, though.


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