Tales of buzz, Proles and Trees
Buzz is an interesting phenomenon. One moment, a band labors in obscurity; one minute later, it appears on the cover of Magnet and Mojo; and, typically, 15 minutes later, it is never heard from again. The latest Midtown buzz has arrived in the form of the Proles.
When Low Flying Owls make their move to New York, the Proles are the band most readily poised to mop up their local audience. Their sound is not identical, but they do share a similar vibe, particularly in terms of a wall-of-sound approach to the stage, and they definitely share an audience. In fact, at the Proles’ show last weekend at Old Ironsides, the audience included several members of Low Flying Owls. Furthermore, the band’s debut CD has been released by The Americans Are Coming—a label run by Low Flying Owls’ manager, Eddie Jorgensen.
The difficulty here is that, ultimately, the Proles don’t seem nearly as interesting as Low Flying Owls, a problem exacerbated by the fact that the Proles played last weekend at an absolutely ear-shattering volume, a facet of their performance that ultimately detracted rather than added to what was happening onstage. There may have been songs there, but if so, they were buried in a wall of undifferentiated sound, essentially the same in both volume and timbre. One can understand the desire of certain bands to crank up the volume, but relying only on volume to get your audience’s attention seems a move a rank amateur would make. Both melody and texture are lost when blasted through the listener’s skull at the volume of a jet engine, and it often appeared that the Proles lacked both (again, though, it was difficult to determine because all subtlety was chased from the room). There were brief moments where a hint of the lead singer’s voice would leak through the wall of sound (and that voice did sound terrific), but it just wasn’t enough to present anything resembling a good song.
Further difficulty lay in natural comparisons to the band’s opening acts: the always interesting Umbravox (with ¡Búcho!’s Anthony Coleman sitting in on trumpet) and Army of Trees. The latter provides a particularly noteworthy comparison. The band has improved remarkably since it was first mentioned in this column last year. The indie-rock influences are still present, but a healthy dose of hard-edged grunge and space rock has been injected, giving the band both a clear sense of direction and a clearly definable sound—think Nirvana jamming with recent Radiohead. Army of Trees’ set featured discernible, memorable melodies, which were performed at a reasonable volume (in fact, Army of Trees’ lead guitarist could stand to turn up a notch or two).
Both bands might provide models for ways in which the Proles could work to survive their current state as buzz band du jour. Remember, gentlemen, the rubber band can shoot you to the moon, but the backlash can also knock you back to Elk Grove. In short: Be very, very careful to be very, very good.