I have mixed feelings about the Music Genome Project. I don’t usually have these biases against science and technology. In fact, I’m a proponent of almost all things scientific. There’s just something unsavory or perhaps abominable about having art dissected by science. Before I go on with an entire thesis paper on the nature of art v. science, I’ll return to my point about the Music Genome Project. When I was younger, there was a time when I immersed myself in David Bowie. I thought Bowie was unique, that there was no one else like him. However, I found through his music, and through recommendations of friends and record store clerks, that I could branch off into T. Rex, the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, Roxy Music, Scott Walker and the New York Dolls. True, the word `unique’ loses meaning in the world of popular music. The same holds true for books. I’ve watched more than one young reader follow the same stepping-stones from Palahniuk to Hornby, Murakami or Klosterman. My point is that there is a natural progression that we follow in discovering new art.
However, we live in a different world now. Very few people stop by their favorite record stores. In fact, other than in fairly hip urban areas, the record store is largely archaic. Everything is digital now. So, I suppose programs such as Pandora and Genius go along with the territory. The danger to me, aside from the seemingly inhuman dissection of something largely organic, is that popular music will begin to follow a formula. But, I suppose that spirit was released from Pandora’s box a long time ago. How can I say this in one sentence? In a world where we seek originality and innovation, we all tend to narrow our focus and retreat toward similarity.
And thus we come to Loxsly. I suppose this is a bit unfair of me, using this Austin band’s latest release, Tomorrow’s Fossils, as an example of my point, so take that mea culpa as you will. After two previous albums and a lot of shows in Texas, Loxsly has become quite good at what they do. Having never seen them perform, I can only take other people’s words for it, but they’ve managed to pull off being both an engaging live act as well as an innovative studio band. The only catch is, we’ve seen and heard it all before. To my earlier point, this is not necessarily Loxsly’s fault. Every band is a product of their influences and thus, nothing is truly original. Nonetheless, Loxsly seem like the perfect Pandora response to someone really into progressive indie music, a la the Flaming Lips and Radiohead. And I’m not talking about somewhat into the Lips, I mean REALLY into them.
Get to the last forty seconds of “You & I Were Working” and you’ll hear what I mean. This particular song is probably the most glaring indication of the album’s shortcomings. At first cloying and precious, with forced rhymes of “working” and “certain,” the track then explodes into a high-pitched, out of tune Wayne Coyne / Tim DeLaughter freak-out. The same goes for the distorted vocal track “Plastic Cones” and toy piano based “Sunk Alone,” though the latter might owe more to Eels than the Lips. The concept of a theme album about science, with scattered blips, bleeps and studio tweaks is not a new one, reeking of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and the middle ground between OK Computer and Kid A. And when Loxsly isn’t recalling any one of the bands above, they’re cribbing from another in the prog pantheon. Does something sound familiar about the intro to “Battalions?” It should. It’s practically screaming Pink Floyd’s “Hey You” or “Comfortably Numb.” Frontman Cody Ground even sings, “my head ballooned.” This is when it began to feel like I was hearing the indie / prog equivalent of 30 Rock’s unlicensed Janis Joplin biopic, “Jackie Jormp-Jomp.”
It’s not that Tomorrow’s Fossils is unlistenable, in fact, it’s anything but. That’s what makes it so dangerous, and what could lead Loxsly to indie credibility. But where the album falters is in overreaching. The songs, revolving around the ideas of science gone awry, find its lyrics completely overpowered by song style and studio technique. In fact, the lyrics are so innocuous that one could listen to this album again and again without grasping on to a single lyrical concept. This, of course, defeats the entire purpose of a thematic album. The reason that The Wall and Yoshimi work so well is due to the lyrical accessibility and pushing the vocals to the fore. Instead, what we are left with is simply an indie record with easily identifiable signature hallmarks. It’s like watching anime without the sound on. I could be wrong. Loxsly could become huge. But when your albums AND stage shows are both compared to the same band, it might be time to branch out.
The Flaming Lips- Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
The Format- Dog Problems
Pink Floyd- A Momentary Lapse of Reason