SXSW: Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (Or a bunch of kids who think they’re shocking)

I don’t think there’s a phrase that inspires more insipid loathing in me than “buzz” band. Every year, a new crop of idiots emerges from the swamps, mean streets, Portland, etc., to become the Next Big Thing.

Being a lady of substance over style, I like to get a little more facts and information about a group before I start creaming my pants like a sophomore at the senior prom with a fake I.D. and a hotel reservation. I know there are a million variables that can go awry in between that last ironic dance to a Journey ballad and post-coital hot tub soak, so here we go:

I’ve been hearing about this Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All for over a month now, since they did that Jimmy Fallon gig and every white kid wanna-be gangster gets a chance to gush on the merits of music today. While I enjoy it, hip-hop is not my bag, so take these comments with what you will.

One of the biggest—if not the biggest—buzz band at SXSW this year, OFWGKTA took the stage yesterday at MTVu’s party. Here’s what the New York Times’ Jon Pareles had to say about the experience:

But the show’s peak was the appearance by Odd Future, the teenaged hip-hop collective from Los Angeles that has stark, homemade beats and startling, gross-out rhymes and videos. A masked midget, in a Hawaiian shirt, arrived to start lip-synching “Yonkers,” followed by the group’s leader Tyler, the Creator (also masked) and characters in chicken and rooster costumes, like football-team mascots, below flashing video images of rainbows and a a lawn gnome. Eventually, after segueing into “Sandwitches” (CQ) Tyler stage-dived into the crowd. When he regained the stage, beefy people dressed in Security uniforms carried Odd Future members off the stage. It was odd enough, and it was also a little burst of energy. But it was also one more instance of outsiders’ music burnishing a corporate image–a big part of SXSW’s recent history.

And here’s the actual video, courtesy of MTV via Pitchfork.

OK, they started their gig with a midget, which I like. Tie-dye, and wildly thrown together imagery with no through-line, rhyme or reason, I don’t. This is like a bunch of hyperactive kids getting fucked up and just thinking about a bunch of random shit that they think looks good together. The lyrics feel the same way. WTF? Why do they rap about dinosaurs so much?

The leader of the group, Tyler, the Creator, does have a very interesting voice for a kid—it’s deep, and raw and gritty—for spitting out those lyrics, but most of the time, it just sounds like some bad poetry some English major/sci-fi geek has put into his journal after he’s had a few and thinks he’s creating some “art.” I’m a lyrics junkie, admittedly, many folks are not. But I get annoyed with words that have no meaning. Or filler words, filled in just cause they sound good. Again, the dinosaurs. Done with that.

Also, you guys have a bunch of mix tapes and shit, but two songs you’re cruising on now? Make some more fucking songs.

wolf gang kill them all

still not scary. they're actually kind of cuddly and adorable, if you will.

All this lack-of-experience, youthful hype hasn’t stopped the collective from blow-up status—they landed the cover of Billboard’s SXSW issue and have signed a record deal with Fat Possum. The intro to the BB story reads thusly: “Tyler, a skinny 19-year-old with a booming voice and a slightly gapped overbite, sits cross-legged on an unmade bed sheet in a Philadelphia hotel room. Over a tray of cinnamon sticks and a half-closed MacBook he gushes about his dreams (winning a Grammy Award) and heroes (Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes).”

Aiming to win a Grammy, which is pretty much the pinnacle of lameness in music, is a pretty bad sign. And I predict it’s probably only a year or two until these kids’ tracks are selling Fruit Roll-ups and Volkswagens. And that’s if they’re lucky. If the OFWGKTA is the future of music, the future’s already over.

Overhyped, Unplugged and Barely Tolerable (A SXSW Music Review)

(Ed note: These arty bitches performed at SXSW 2010. My bad. But they still blow.)

So, my grad-school friend Andrew who’s currently in Beirut, mentioned that although he enjoyed the pop culture references, he was up for hearing more about music.

I used to write about music for a living—I received hundreds of albums every month; attended countless live shows with notebook and beer in hand; and weathered many a drunk-groupie bathroom line. The takeaway? I got real sick of writing about music. They say that anything that becomes your job is no longer fun. That is correct. Which makes me think that, if that’s true, then sex is no fun for a hooker. Note to self: Never become a prostitute.

Anyway, writing about music kinda sucks for a couple reasons. One, it really ruins the fun experience of going out to a show. I have stood far too many times in uncomfortable shoes, in beer-soaked venues with shitty sound systems through too many fucking encores—did I mention that I loathe encores? Play your shit, get the fuck off the stage! Making us stand there and clap like a bunch of fucking monkeys, begging for a banana—so that going to shows now feels more like a chore than anything else.

Like Paul McCartney once said when someone asked him if he went out to live shows anymore: “Why? I’ve got great records at home.” Yes, I am too old for this shit. And I don’t want to stand behind you while you frantically take fuzzy snapshots of bands on your cell phone to send to your douche-bag friend, or better yet, call your douche bag of a friend to tell him that you’re seeing Joanna Newsom and doesn’t she just fucking rock. (I also despise Joanna Newsom).

That said, SXSW is coming up. And I figured it might be fun to take out the knife and fork and tear into some of the most hyped bands coming to Austin next week. And get this…I am beholden to no one. There is no publicist to piss off, no record label to suck up to for the piddling amount of ad revenue they have left, no shitty hipster rag I gotta conform to. This is unabashedly, fuck-all what I think of these acts.

Ready? Let’s go…

I pulled some bands off Allmusic.com’s most recommended list. Keep in mind, I’ve been out of the game for a long time, and I knew absolutely nothing about any of these bands.

I decided to start with Mountain Man. I like mountains. I like men. And if you fucking put them together, that is like crack to Tyron Biggums to me. Fucking Mountain Man? Hell, yes.

Now, I was vaguely expecting some My Morning Jacket type bunch of bearded boys ripping into it, yelping about the woods and whiskey and such. No. Here’s All Music’s bio of this band:

Vermont-based indie folk outfit Mountain Man formed in the late 2000s around the talents of Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and Amelia Randall Meath. The three women met while attending Bennington College, a small liberal arts school in the southwest corner of the state. The trio members, who harmonize so effortlessly that comparisons to the Sirens of Greek mythology are inevitable, craft largely a cappella, modern folk songs that draw heavily from the melodies and imagery of traditional American folk music. Mountain Man’s debut album, Made the Harbor, was recorded in an old ice cream parlor dating from the turn of the 20th century and was released on Partisan Records in 2010.

I don’t think a band’s bio could get anymore precious—there was nothing about this that didn’t make me want to claw my own eardrums out. And when I pulled that shit up on my computer to listen to it, well, damnit, it got way more precious.

don't you just want to punch the one in glasses?

Now, I’m not arguing that these bitches can’t sing and harmonize and all that shit. They can. But you put Bennington and Sirens and ice-cream parlor into one paragraph for me, and it’s difficult to choke the vomit back. One spin through this record and even I can feel my fucking period syncing up to theirs. It’s kinda gross.

One thing I really despise is egregious displays of sensitive artistry combined with chick-dom with tender, sweet folk music. It’s just too much, like putting three tablespoons of pure white sugar into a Dunkin Donuts carmelized coffee. I don’t like it when music has no bite—of any kind. Plenty of women have sung about the mountain and/or hillbilly life—Dolly, Loretta, June Carter—but those women have chutzpah, spunk, bite.

I also find it really condescending when artists adopt a sound that comes from a lifestyle completely outside their realm, i.e. Bennington kids don’t know what the fuck mountain/hillbilly life is about—knitting scarves and tapping your own maple syrup doesn’t count.

Now, the folks say this would be real nice to listen to around a porch—imagine a nice little singalong with only a few voices and instruments on a June summer’s night, outdoors at dusk. And, while it does remind me a bit of the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack, it’s no comparison to the real deal, say, go back and dig through recordings from earlier hill eras. Also, the Fleet Foxes are big fans, and they’re about the most boring bunch of pussies to come out of Seattle since Candlebox. I say, if I find myself on a porch with these three, please kill me.

Any other artists you want me to sink my teeth into? Please write. I’ll be here all week.