America is stuck in a rut. And not just any old rut, a musical rut — the worst kind if your demographic consists of club-going twenty-somethings with a passion for the unique.
The biggest problem is that American bands just can’t seem to match the ingenuity of their European counterparts. Every week a new band is breaking out across the pond, garnering praise and radio play.
At this point, American bands are just lucky to open on tour with their international brethren.
Take, for example, Friday night’s show at the Avalon in Hollywood.
Hailing from New York City, opening band Joy Zipper brought nothing new to the table, running quickly through a short set. They’re just another alternative band with a girl providing backup vocals and banging away on a keyboard.
The one breakout moment of their performance consisted of the beautiful lyric “I love you more than a thousand Christmases / I want you more than any gift I can think of,” in the track “Christmas Song.” It’s too bad they can’t keep up such vibrant lyricism through an entire album or even just a couple songs.
In stark contrast to Joy Zipper, UK act Dogs Die In Hot Cars use originality as their friend. Lead singer Chris Macintosh’s falsetto ensures they don’t come off sounding quite like anyone else. Their rambling, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style makes for an exciting live show and provides ample room for improvisation, making sure that they don’t sound like a carbon copy of their album while on tour.
Macintosh, with mouth open so wide it seems he’s about to swallow the microphone whole, croons “I wish I had Paul Newman’s eyes / And every day came with some surprise / I wish I had Paul Newman’s eyes / That would be nice,” backed by the sound of simple guitar strumming. Piano, drums and guitars launch the aptly named “Paul Newman’s Eyes” into a mellow verse capped off by the all-too-catchy chorus.
The songs “Lounger,” “Apples & Oranges” and “Godhopping” all build to raucous choruses meant to get you out of your seat and fully into a dancing position. Their first single, “I Love You ‘Cause I Have To” has all the hipsters in the place singing along to the darkest lyrics on the debut album Please Describe Yourself.
French six-some Phoenix combine pop appeal, boyish good looks and a penchant for romanticism into a performance likened to an indie ‘N Sync. The only difference is that these guys actually play their own music and do it very well.
Lead singer Thomas Mars makes almost too much sense on the band’s popular single, “Everything Is Everything,” off their latest release Alphabetical. The dark overtone of “Run, Run, Run” perfectly contrasts most of Phoenix’s upbeat tracks.
While they don’t stray far from traditional verse-chorus-verse form, Phoenix strikes originality by blurring genre lines and turning out music that’s both unique and immediately gratifying on first listen. Maybe the French could teach us Americans a thing or two — get us out of this rut.
Dylan Schafer, University of South California,Daily Trojan