We finally get back to the original song component on the Next Great American Band, and it makes all the difference in the world. It’s one thing to be decent musicians who can cover someone else’s song. It’s another thing entirely to produce something original that doesn’t suck.
Can anybody find me somebody to spoil?
We’re down to the final four, and alas, one of my personal favorites, Dot Dot Dot, gets booted. I would have loved to see the manic emo leprechaun do Freddy Mercury. Ah well — I’ll look for them if they get to Chicago, because I imagine seeing them live would be a hell of a party.
The Clark Brothers are up first, doing "These Are the Days of Our Lives" They took Dicko’s advice and added drums and bass, but to me, the song seems a little flatter than their last couple of performances. It lacks the urgency that the stripped-down, acoustic trio brought to the music. Granted, it’s a gentle, melancholy song, but it still struck me that the addition of the two new guys, which was supposed to beef up the sound, left me feeling like it was watered down. The judges disagree, telling the guys that adding musicians was a great idea, especially as it allowed Ashley to take a more obvious role as front man.
The original is "Homestead," and while it sounds nice, it’s yet another in a long line of "ain’t country life and country folks so much better than city life and city folks" songs, which disappoints me. It’s just too easy. Dicko agrees, and for the first time, one of the Clark boys (Adam) rolls his eyes and makes a "whatever"-type gesture. It pains me to say this, but shut up, Adam. It was a hackneyed song. John Denver, Lynyrd Skynyrd and countless others have done it before — and better.
Light of Doom goes off the rails this week. Their Queen cover, "We Will Rock You," starts off with everyone but the drummer pounding out the rhythm on bass drums, then breaking into their standard metal take on things. Their headbanging is coordinated, but that’s the only thing. The judges rip them to shreds. The original, "A Matter of Time," is even worse. It’s what you’d expect out of 12-year-old metalheads. The kids can play, but they sure as hell can’t write. If the original song has been a component throughout the competition, I don’t think they’d have made it this far.
Sixwire has fun with "Fat Bottomed Girls," which I have to respect. It’s a good song for a country band to take as their own, because that opening a cappella bit is well suited to the country harmonies. The judges love it. Their original, "Go On," is the strongest of the bunch. It’s a heartbreak song, and therefore not stunningly original, but it’s well crafted and would stand up well on adult contemporary radio today. These guys know what they’re doing.
D&MHO rounds things out with "Sleeping on the Sidewalk," which they make work. Dicko calls it when he says it’s a "good, sassy rendition" that fits the band well. As usually, the arrangement is fantastic. Their original is "Big White House," and it’s surprisingly angry, almost a kiss-off song. I didn’t’ think Denver had it in him. It’s a decent song, but like Dicko, I think it would be an album track, not a single that got radio play. And I could do without the sax flourish at the end.
Highlights, thoughts and odds and ends
- Hearing the originals again made me wonder what would have happened if they’d stuck to the cover/original formula throughout the whole run. I think Light of Doom would have been out a long time ago, while Franklin Bridge would still be in.
- Strangely, the producers decided to do the covers and originals in separate segments. Why? I’m not sure — possibly so the judges could sort of cleanse their aural palate between the two songs. Or possibly just to mess with the bands.
- Dicko on Ashley Clark: "You’re probably the best front person we’ve got in this competition. I think you’re such a reluctant rock star. Don’t fight it, mate, you’ll love it." Ashley looked profoundly uncomfortable with that.
- I think Sheila’s right in her assessment of The Clark Brothers: "This is not about being a rock star for you, this is you guys’ lives, this is what you live and you breathe." That’s why I almost hope the Clark Brothers don’t win this thing, because I fear the sort of contract they’d have to sign would make it much more about selling than passion for music.
- Dicko on The Clark Brothers’ original: "I thought that was a crap song. Really really bad. You evoke emotion every time you sing, put those lyrics were bog-standard country 101." Yup.
- Dicko complained that Light of Doom’s presentation on the cover looked like "a school project." He’s right. But several members of the audience disagreed, most notably this blond boy who was maybe 10 years old and who was screaming his lungs out at Dicko. If the kid had known any obscenities, he was shouting them.
- John is spot-on with Light of Doom after the original: "I’m hearing all of your influences but none of you." The kids aren’t old enough to be anything but their influences yet.
- Dicko on Sixwire after "Fat-bottomed Girls": "I don’t know what you’ve been putting on your cornflakes, because you seem to have found your inner naughty boys and it’s working really well."
- All the judges are thrilled with Sixwire’s original, but Sheila is the most effusive: "That’s an amazing song — when’s it coming out? You have to win, [because] I want the song."
- Dicko takes Denver to task for going from his over-the-top suits to being the worst-dressed person in the band. He wants to take Denver to a stylist. I kind of agree.
- Denver protests that he’s wearing a t-shirt with his new daughter’s name on it — "London." Sigh. Someone in that family will have to break the chain of place-named children, or you’re going to have kids named "Schenectady" and "Poughkeepsie" running around someday.
Who’s your favorite of the final four? Do you think tonight’s lackluster performance by Light of Doom has finally ended their reign? Who had the best original? Do you think the final four would have been different if they’d stuck to the cover/original format all along? And is there any point to Dominic Bowden’s continuing presence on the show?