Scene Not Heard

Computer wizards leave their bedrooms, rappers reach the stage, and the Mason Jennings Band creates the bar buzz of the decade. In the ninth annual City Pages New Music Poll, 60 local music fans pick the bands that made the biggest noise.

by Peter S. Scholtes

 

Readers can hear many of the bands mentioned in Pick to Click IX at the music showcases for this year's Minnesota Music Awards.

Daniel Corrigan


 

PICKED TO CLICK IX

1.The Mason Jennings Band (57)

2.Selby Tigers (33)

3.Plastic Constellations (29)

4.Jake Mandell (27)

5.Abstract Pack (23)

6.Bellwether, ÜberScenester (21)

7.Mark Mallman (and the Heat) (20)

8.Sixth Sense (181/3)

9.Tangletown (18)

10.Indigenous (16)

11.Hawaii (151/2)

12.Moveable Feast, Ouija Radio (14)

13.Walter Kong and the Dangermakers, American Head Charge (12)

14.Radar Threat, The Misfires (11)

15.The Hot (101/2)

16.The Dames, Escape Mechanism (10)

17.Landing Gear (91/3)

18.Lunar 9 (81/2)

19.Arkology, Fizzy Lifter, Truth Maze (8)

20.Bobby Llama, Prosthetica, Debi 7, Sliver, Dixie and the Cannibals, Salamander (7)

21.DJ Ts, Ninian Hawick, Drunk Drivers (6)

22.Olo (51/2)

 

Votes tabulated by Bridgette Reinsmoen


For every scenester, a scene:
Unpacking the Picked to Click ballot box

Peter S. Scholtes, City Pages

1. Hawaii

2. Selby Tigers

3. Abstract Pack

4. Mark Mallman

5. Radar Threat

Mason Jennings applies a nice not-from-round-here accent to some poignant lyrics, but I can't help wondering how the tunes would go over if they spilled from the mouth of a nonbabe. Face it: Charisma is as elemental to folk heroism as it is to rock-star posturing and performance-art pranks. This fact is not lost on Hawaii, a singer who embodies all three elements. Operating under an alias that reminds me of Elvis and countless state/city-named bands (e.g., Boston and Kansas), Lifter Puller bassist-keyboardist Steve Barone lip-synchs not only his prerecorded, Bay City Rollers-style anthems but even the mindless stage patter between them. He obliterates any pretense to spontaneity or audience interaction, and manages to put the ploy over on nerve alone. His "band," Hawaii Rocks, plays air-everything and comes complete with a phony entourage of fans to fill the front rows, hold up signs ("Hawaii Rocks"), and cheer like teenagers. It's a closed circle, this little cabal--and, perhaps, the ultimate defense mechanism against a bored rock scene. All they need now is canned applause and a self-published fanzine to give the show a rave review. That is, if this blurb doesn't count. With much less ado, all four of my other choices show the same kind of faith-restoring audacity. Hip hoppers Abstract Pack and scruff-poppers Selby Tigers are two bolts of sonic confidence from St. Paul, both clearly aimed at a wider underground. Retro-electro noise sculptor Radar Threat burrows a bit more, letting his aural uniqueness speak to the growing local avant-garde music scene. As for Mark Mallman: The oddest ex-Odd member is too weird for Jennings regulars and too painfully true to himself onstage to feign pomo detachment. But without a "genre" to tap into or a "scene" to incubate Mallman, his brilliance may be lost between the cracks.

 

Kate Sullivan, St. Paul Pioneer Press

1. Arkology

2. Bellwether

3. Indigenous

4. The Mason Jennings Band

5. Selby Tigers

A generalized rant directed at no one in particular: The local scene is sophisticated, mature, and perennially poised to generate one or two breakout artists a year for the major labels to sign and the radio conglomerates to push. We've got a safety-first aesthetic, producing safe music for safe machinery. No one good is going out of his head, and I'm getting bored out of my skull. In terms of crucial contributions to the evolution of rock, the Twin Cities don't matter anymore. Prove me wrong. I dare you. That said, the five groups listed above each offer intelligent twists on their genres and, most important, share a commitment to simplicity and clarity of vision--be that the elegant authority of Mason Jennings, the poetic abstraction of the spoken-word/jazz collective Arkology, or the unironic teen-rebellion anthems of Selby Tigers.

 

Laura Sinagra, freelance writer

1. Jake Mandell

2. Landing Gear

3. The David Hill Punk Rock Trio

4. Abstract Pack

5. Empire

Mandell's pleasing sonic ginkgo--a laptop-generated mix of bloops, washes, and beats--calms the jitters without blurring the focus. As far as egregious pop fame is concerned, why Matchbox 20? Why Third Eye Blind? Why not Landing Gear, the snappy new band assembled by a former Hovercraftsman, the sensitive-yet-shatterproof Jay Hurley? With spazzitude and smarts, bassist David Hill (joined by two members of the pure punk Mother's Day) shakes it up nice and tight, with the verve of a thousand 15-year-olds at a Model U.N. hotel party. Local hip hop went pro with Abstract's radio-ready tracks and the rump-shakin' live show of the huggable Empire crew. Allow me an honorable mention: John Crozier, mayor of the edge city of Postpopolis, whose matrix of "side" projects--most notably Ninian Hawick--keeps him perpetually new.

 

Randy Hawkins, 7th Street Entry

1. Ouija Radio

2. Happy Apple

3. The Dames

4. Flim Flam Man

5. Dropnickel

Ouija Radio is my favorite local power trio since T.V.B.C. They combine that band's sound, Hüsker Dü, and hard grrrl rock. Covering songs like "Boris the Spider" and "She Bop," they create unique arrangements loosely wrapped around songs that are often about ten minutes long: three minutes of verses and choruses plus seven minutes of etc. To some people Happy Apple is just a bunch of guys playing as many notes and beats as possible. To others they are skilled artists creating a "cascading soundscape." But recently Happy Apple has leavened its serious music with a tongue-in-cheek style. The Dames are a rock 'n' roll trio from Duluth who are influenced heavily by old Minneapolis punk rock and Seattle grunge; they combine avant-garde metal and sensible, melodic songwriting. Dropnickel plays pop-punk that doesn't make me think of Green Day or Limp Bizkit--a pleasant change from the paint-by-numbers bands that have made whole careers out of formulas and imitation. I'd also like to throw in two honorable mentions: Landing Gear's Jay Hurley (formerly of Hovercraft/Shatterproof) who did it again, proving his talent as a pop songwriter in his best band to date; and Sixth Sense (Rhyme Sayers) the newest, youngest addition to the Rhyme Sayers collective, and a crew that might give that Eminem kid a run for his money.

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