Since my review of last year’s Coachella lineup garnered so many brilliant responses, I would be shirking my duties as an online journalist if I ignored the big announcement that was made this week. Two weekends in April will once again transform the Californian desert into the most unbearable environment on Earth. And, no, I’m not talking about oppressive heat or lack of potable water. The reason for the region’s sudden transformation into inhospitable wasteland is due not to its climate, but its arts and culture.
“Coachella?” you ask…here, let’s review:
Every year, a bunch of sissies in short-pant velvet suits who like to skip down the streets of (insert recently-gentrified “hip” neighborhood here) touting their ironic mustaches, pasty skin and asymmetrical haircuts wait with baited breath for the announcement of which bands will perform at the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Much like the cast list for your old high school drama club performance of Bye Bye Birdie, the weeks and months before each lineup is posted are filled with rumors, fake-outs and endless conversations at the alternative coffee shop down the street. For some reason it’s a cause of great excitement with young people. And I guess yesterday, or the day before, the official Coachella 2012 lineup was released to the public. And when my co-worker excitedly informed me that this was the real list, my response was simply, “Huh!?”
The fact is, unlike last year there are probably ten bands I wouldn’t mind seeing. The only problem is the setting. Why would anybody think Godspeed You! Black Emperor is going to be able to harness the beauty and emotion of their wall of sound at 6pm on a Saturday, in front of 100,000 people, outdoors…right before Noel Gallagher is set to take the stage? That’s just depressing. Do you really think Jeff Mangum, alone on that huge stage with his acoustic guitar, will deliver the arresting performance you’ve dreamed about witnessing since first you heard In The Aeroplane Over The Sea? No. You probably won’t even be able to hear him over the couple fighting ten feet away from you. And Cat Power? She put on one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen at the Hollywood Bowl a few years ago — and that venue supports about 60,000 less people than Coachella does. Good luck.
The problem most people had last year with my review of all the artists scheduled to perform was that I didn’t give them enough of a chance to impress me. Oh, and more importantly I was a “prick” and a “douchebag” and a “fuck” and a “hipster” because I refused to heap praise upon every single band. Well, all those people are going to be angry again this year, because I’m conducting my review just like I did last year. I’ll give every artist a shot by listening to one song on YouTube (the one with the most views). And then I’ll determine if they’re any good (hint: most won’t be).
Due to time and length constraints I’m going to space this out over the course of the next three days. I’m having too much fun and spending much more than one sentence on each band.
Friday April 13th
LA Riots – Already I’m off to a terrible start. Try finding a music video for an act called LA Riots. It is impossible. With a name like that it’s like they don’t want me to be able to find them on the Internet. Way to market yourself, guys. Oh, they’re like electro/house music. It sounds like people playing laser tag. Sorry, not interested.
The Sheepdogs – Found a song called “I Don’t Know”. Fat guys with long hair and beards. Sounds like that band from Almost Famous, if that band had just started taking music lessons and this was the first song they came up with. Like a totally incompetent CSNY tribute band. I hope they at least close their set with a tongue-in-cheek cover of Freebird.
Hello Seahorse! – “Criminal (Video Oficial!)” My first guess is these guys aren’t from America. The spelling of “official” gave that one away! Also all the Spanish (or is that Portuguese? I don’t want to sound like an unintelligent American). Oh, great. These guys are like Feist but the vocals are sung in a different language. I’m sure they’ll fit in just fine at Coachella.
The Dear Hunter – Not to be confused with the movie The Deer Hunter, or the already-existing band Deerhunter. It takes 0:05 (the song is called “The Church And The Dime”) for me to peg these guys as a cross between Coldplay and Fall Out Boy. With plenty of by-the-books Elliott Smith-y chord changes. The main dude plays a Rhodes, I think. He’s got a decent-enough voice but…hoo boy. The “Save me” / “Breathe In, Breathe out” / “Welcome to the world” trite lyrics are abhorrent.
Oh, man. YouTube has ads now. This is going to make things go a lot slower…
Ximena Sarinana – This song is apparently called “Different”. So…am I watching a gum commercial or a music video? No. Seriously.
Kendrick Lamar – 24-year old West Coast rapper from Compton. Not nearly as prolific as Lil B. Nor is he as talented. Not a fan. “Look Out For Detox”.
EMA – The song is called “California”. Blonde girl with bangs in her face, looking too cool for school. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. The delivery of that “Fuck California” opening line is so awful. Wow. This sounds like a motivational speaker freestyling over Grandaddy. It’s pretty terrible. If you’re a girl and you’re going to wear a white shirt in your music video at least make it a wet white t-shirt. And make sure you’re not wearing a bra.
The Midnight Beast – Wait a minute. Is that Robert Webb from Peep Show? And is he rapping? This is funny in the worst possible way.
Wolf Gang – I’m guessing this is not a reference to Odd Future. Wow, this is bad. “Lions in Cages”. Like an even wussier Kings Of Leon but mixed with The Killers or some other dreadful synth-rock band boasting an overly-British aesthetic.
R3hab – No kidding, a DJ whose name is a reference to drug or alcohol abuse? Well, now I’ve heard everything! Music like this is the reason I don’t like MDMA.
Other Lives – This (“For 12″) sounds like every song you’ve ever heard attached to a TV show on The CW. Let me guess: this qualifies as interesting music when you live in a place like Oklahoma. I get the feeling it will go largely overlooked at Coachella.
GIVERS – And the award for first band on the schedule with gratuitous, wholly unnecessary use of all-caps in their name goes to Givers. Fuck it. I’m not even going to show them enough respect to spell their name the way they want it spelled. Fucking entitled pieces of shit. I hate this trend of weird capitalization or spelling in band names. Get over yourselves. I’m not even going to listen to your music because I’m too enraged.
Atari Teenage Riot – I know I’ve heard about this group in the past (read: the 90s) but I never listened to them. It’s no wonder. They’re a German techno group.
Wu Lyf – I don’t care how it’s spelled on the poster. I’m not doing the all-caps thing for any of these stupid bands. “Split It Concrete Like The Colden Sun God”. Oh, great. The Arcade Fire is already influencing people to start terrible bands that try to sound like them. This was my worst nightmare. This is even worse than the Arcade Fire because instead of a preening dick for a singer they hired the guy from Modest Mouse, who has the second worst voice in rock music (first: Billy Corgan). Let me guess, this entire Indian tribe as well as all the people in confederate army uniforms are in the band. And they wear the uniforms in concert. Because you can’t be an Arcade Fire clone without having at least 23 costumed people in your band.
Feed Me – Electronic music. Club music. Whatever you want to call this, I’ll never be a fan of it.
Breakbot – JESUS CHRIST! WHAT YEAR IS THIS? I thought we did away with this garbage thirty years ago.
Death Grips – Oh yeah. This’ll go over well with the pasty white people in homemade cutoffs and neon tank tops.
The Black Angels – They had one decent album. The first one. They’ll never be anything more than a shitty Spacemen 3-wannabe band.
Dawes – The only thing that’s worse than sounding like Bruce Springsteen (oh hai Arcade Fire) is sounding like John Mellencamp. Way to go, Dawes!
Neon Indian – “Neon Indian is the latest band out of Brooklyn…” and that’s where i stopped reading. I’d heard enough of the YouTube video. One MGMT is more than enough, thanks. In fact it’s one too many if you ask me.
Yuck – This song is called “Get Away”. Is this what kids are doing now? They’re aping Dinosaur Jr and Superchunk? Songs like this make me wish bands would stop using intentionally-sloppy production as a crutch for their otherwise mediocre songwriting.
Datsik – I can’t tell if this is just the song or if my car alarm is going off.
Sebastian – This guy capitalizes only the ‘A’ in his name. I can’t tell if that makes him the most annoying of the grammar criminals on this list. Crummy dance music. Skip it.
Alesso – I just got a douche-rave-chill.
James – Is this James as in “Laid”? As in the band that paved the way for Coldplay? Yeah, I hope these guys rot.
Frank Ocean – The venue he’s playing sucks, but Frank Ocean is awesome so I will not knock him.
The Horrors – Wait a minute. Weren’t these guys a punk/rockabilly group from the 90s? Apparently they’ve changed directions, as they’re now a bunch of Brits who sound way too much like Echo & The Bunnymen, and whose singer has the unfortunate luck of sounding like the guy from Psychedelic Furs.
M. Ward – Isn’t this the guy who broke up Zooey and the fat guy from Death Cab For Cutie? Or was that the kid from Inception? Either way, I hate the affected vocals but the guitar playing is good. I own Transfiguration Of Vincent and Transistor Radio, but I rarely listen to them. I guess he’s one of those guys who I want to like based on his influences, but he doesn’t do anything to separate distance himself from those who inspired him…except for that voice.
Madeon – Oof. Bad stuff guys. Real bad.
The Rapture – What is this, 2001? Have they even released anything since Echoes? The only way these guys would be worth seeing is if they spent their entire set jamming out on “House Of Jealous Lovers”.
Girls – A nice simple band name. Except they have to capitalize it like a bunch of idiots. Really? They have a song called “Lust For Life”? So not only are they incapable of thinking of a unique band name, they’re so lazy they titled a song “Lust For Life”? I already hate them. Although they do achieve the trifecta of boring: Name, Song Titles, Music. Good job, Girls. I like pop music as much as the next guy…but this shit is as safe as it is tedious. It’s perfect for the over-40 hipster dad crowd.
Jimmy Cliff & Tim Armstrong – Because nothing screams “MUST SEE” like a reggae icon sharing the stage with the guy from Rancid.
Madness – Well…they invented ska.
Cat Power – I listened to You Are Free the other day and it reminded me how much I dislike her. Hopefully she’ll have a nervous breakdown and it’ll make your whole weekend totally worth the trek out to the desert.
Amon Tobin – One of my co-workers played ISAM last week. It had its moments but it also had A LOT of cheesy moments. I guess that just happens when you produce electronic music. If you’re not rocking out or approaching traditional instruments (read: not synthesizers) with an eye towards experimentation, it doesn’t work for me. And if you’re relying on sounds more likely to play in a club, it’s going to sound cheesy as hell. But hey, that’s just me.
M83 – I really, really liked Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts when I was in college. I haven’t liked anything else since. The coolest tracks on the new record are the ones that feature Brad Laner. That guy can do no wrong in my eyes. So maybe what they should do at Coachella is announce M83, but then Brad Laner gets on stage and plays a bunch of Medicine songs. That’d be awesome.
Explosions In The Sky – I love EITS (even though their most recent record wasn’t that great). I’d see them if I were at Coachella, but that’s not saying much. These guys have come a real long way since playing Church basements and opening for …And You Will Know us By The Trail Of Dead.
Afrojack – Is this the “Because I got high” guy? Oh, wait. That’s Afroman. Afrojack is even worse, because it’s house music.
Mazzy Star – Painfully dull. It seems like old-schoolers revere Opal so much it gets in the way of their honestly approaching Mazzy Star with a critical ear. Because if they did they’d realize how boooooring it is. Also young audiences just like it because it’s Dawson’s Creek sex music.
Arctic Monkeys – These guys are the British Strokes, right? But with a worse name? Like, one of the worst band names ever conceived? Yeah…I’ve got the right band. I remember reading Pitchfork’s Top 200 Albums of the 2000s and as soon as I saw Arctic Monkeys on the list (it was within somewhere between 175 and 200, but still…THEY MADE THE LIST) I laughed aloud and stopped reading. I’m sure number one was Wilco or Arcade Fire.
Refused – This might be cool to see. A Refused reunion. The Shape Of Punk To Come holds a special place in my former high school self’s heart. I just don’t think Coachella would be my venue of choice if I had the opportunity to see Dennis and Co. freak the fuck out on stage for forty minutes. Sidenote: I’ll never forget how funny it was the first time a friend went to see the (International) Noise Conspiracy and he complained about the anti-capitalists selling all forms of merchandise at the concert. HA!
Pulp – A safe choice, and one that will probably work in spite of the size/crowd.
Swedish House Mafia – I love the description: “a house music supergroup” (oh, God, really?) “comprised of DJ/producers” (cringe) “Axwell” (never heard of him), “Steve Angello” (is that the Asian guy who is the heir to the Benihana fortune?) “and Sebastian Ingrosso.” No thanks.
The Black Keys – Shitty major label car commercial band I can’t seem escape on the radio or television. I don’t see anything even slightly original about this band. They have an album cover stolen from Howlin’ Wolf, and their most popular video on YouTube is an old R&B cover. In fact it appears all the music they’ve recorded is stolen from everyone from Link Wray to Lightnin’ Hopkins. If I want to listen to that kind of music I’ll take the genuine article one million times out of one million. I get the same feeling about the Black Keys that I get from groups like The White Stripes. I’ve heard it before. But better. All disdain aside, though…isn’t the goal of a headlining act to have broad relevance? Something all 75,000 people can enjoy? This choice doesn’t seem to fit that criteria. Could Radiohead alone sell 20,000 tickets? Sure. Could Snoop and Dre? Sure. Could the Black Keys? No, sorry.
Folk Sounds From Nepal – All Night Festival [MP3]