Refried hip-hop ectoplasms and tuneful sample-styled pop meets old-school soul with new-school roles in our 1997 new band poll--with some beatific power-pop traditionalism thrown in for good measure. In a year of seismic genre shifts locally as well as nationally, all ears appear to have turned to Paul Robb and Barbara Cohen, cohorts of Brother Sun Sister Moon. Not only do Cohen and Robb together and separately boast eight nominations in the upcoming Minnesota Music Awards, at press time they were on the verge of inking a deal with Virgin Records. They've also landed the highest score ever (49 points) in the seven years of this poll, beating the previous landslide record of 43 points set by 12 Rods in 1996. And whether or not voters viewed them as the trip-pop studio twosome that devised The Great Game, or the sexy live sextet that's played just three wonderful, DJ-driven shows, BSSM is the first non-trio in the history of the poll to land first place--which kinda bums me out, since it ends a strange six-year streak of chart-topping threesomes: Walt Mink, Hammerhead, Guzzard, Lily Liver, Tribe of Millions and 12 Rods. But I'll be okay.
Though we always run this informal poll to coincide with the Minnesota Music Academy's Icebreaker Week and awards show, its Best New Band nominees usually have suspiciously little to do with our results: From the MMA nominee list of Sukpatch, Swoon, Dazy Head Mazy, the Cole Younger Band and Jaqi Q, only Sukpatch makes a big dent here. But as usual, this is where the subjective nature of "newness" is called into question. Sukpatch has been together as long as this poll has, and has been gigging as Minnesotans since 1994. But 1996-97 was the first season they started to matter to lots of folks, having just sold their guitars and turned to the all-electro indie-hop for which they are now known and loved. So, to cop a tag from NBC's rerun marketing campaign, let's just say, "It's New To You! (TM)"
As voter Mark Wheat indicated, it seems folks are figuring out how to debut more perfect bands: Every group in our top five has already made a solid CD debut in the last year. A very prominent mention goes out to future-jazz improv drummer Dave King, whose fifth-place Happy Apple garners 17 points. But pollsters Jim Meyer and Pat Whalen also awarded King himself nine more points for his traps mastery in at least six (!) other new bands--for a point total that theoretically puts the hyperactive King in third place. You've also got to credit Paul Robb a.k.a. Brother Sun, for the 10 additional points he earned for his one-man synthcore operation Think Tank. And fourth-place funksters the Sensational Joint Chiefs add 23 to their 11 points from the 1996 poll (before they were "Sensational"), yielding an impressively phat two-year sum. Meanwhile, this year's Visionary Award goes to Kevin Cole for matching our top three bands in his own vote (someone hire the guy for something, okay?). But enough number crunching. On with the show...
--Simon Peter Groebner
Lynne Bengtson, Fine Line: 1. Sukpatch 2. Wheelo 3. Beatifics 4. Umbrella Bed 5. Bobby Llama (Honorable mention: Buzzwell)
Rich Best, First Avenue: 1. Sukpatch 2. Lifter Puller 3. Cole Younger Band 4. Druel 5. Mindphaseone
Laura Brandenburg, The Squealer: 1. Happy Apple 2. Druel 3. Roto Spasmo 4. Marina Glass 5. (tie) Lee Family Curse/Pinch
Amy Carlson, Minnesota Daily A&E: 1. Magnatone 2. Short Fuses 3. Accident Clearinghouse 4. Sukpatch 5. Happy Apple--Magnatone provides plenty of good old-fashioned rock & roll with kick and lots of attitude; Short Fuses serve up a kindred kick, and are led by one very spirited woman, Miss Georgia Peach; honky-tonkers Accident Clearinghouse are indie rockers with an Americana heart; Colorado transplants Sukpatch feature spacey, electronic, danceable grooves; and Happy Apple deliver a curve ball with their unique brand of funky, improvisational jazz.
Kevin Cole, Local Music Hero: 1. Brother Sun Sister Moon 2. The Beatifics 3. Sukpatch 4. The Pins 5. The Siren Six
Greg Comstock, The Edge's Ultrasonic Burn: 1. Think Tank 2. Flipp 3. DJ Jeezus Juice 4. Likehell 5. Hekla
Lynda Davis, The Cabooze: 1. The Big Wu 2. Bobby Llama 3. Eight Head 4. The Sensational Joint Chiefs 5. Jon Ken Po (Honorable mentions: The Beads, The Jones Gang, Jaqi Q, Gutta Percha, Tribe of Millions)
James Diers, freelance writer: (no order) Atmosphere, Mary Nail, MMF, Propeller, Bright Yellow Kites--Yeah, I know, I know--you're looking at this bunch and wondering, "Where's the electronica? The trip hop? The crazy newfangled technified sounds?" Well, frankly, they're all over the place, and they're still too new for me to fit into my personal "band" construct. Besides, Paul Robb and Barbara Cohen are in the doghouse until they pay me for those remixes.
Jon Dolan, freelance writer: 1. Obscura 2. Jungle Vibe Collective 3. The Tropicals 4. Sukpatch 5. Clog--Always skeptical of scene-based provincialism and crappy guitar bands, I paid next to no attention to this year's Minne-music scene. Big mistake. By looking at the list I came up with in well under two minutes, I can only assume that for each of these five wonderful bands there are at least three more worth getting to know. Sorry; I'll do better next year. Clog's "The Living Beatles" (my favorite one-minute punk song since the Angry Samoans' "Lights Out" and the best rock star-envy anthem since "Video Killed the Radio Star") was the best thing I heard on Radio K all year. Sukpatch's looping of what I'm told is Rusted Root around what I'm guessing is Eric B. and Rakim's "Paid In Full" was my indie-dance epiphany of 1996. The Tropicals (Frank O'Hara by way of the Roches) made me smile so hard I damn near cried. I'm still coming down from JVC's drum 'n' bass/hip-hop house warehouse parties. And then there's Obscura, a male-female acoustic duo of Motel 6 employees from Mankato playing madrigals by way of Mecca Normal that just happen to be my favorite folk band since the Raincoats, and my favorite punk band since... the Raincoats, I guess.