By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Imagine an Orwellian world where any use of your imagination is banned and music has been stripped of any vestige of melody or originality. In such a world, bands like the Nixons would land a sponsorship deal from Big Brother.
Never critics' darlings, the Nixons' album reviews get very few stars, but sales are substantial enough to put their sophomore album on a major label. Even though they are from Oklahoma, they've managed to forge a local identity that offers them a modicum of success in these here parts. The Nixons, however, probably will fare even better on a national level: the band's sub-grunge fodder, lukewarm alienation, and sixth-grade spirituality are custom-made to--as the bean-counters put it--shift units. No matter how the Nixons grind it--and grind they do--this is product. Tepid, mainstream rock with no personality.
Straight out of the can of impostors Kurt Cobain opened six years ago, the Nixons are nothing more than yet another addition to the hordes of hit-or-miss acts that the music industry farms like catfish, vainly hoping to breed a new Nirvana--at least in terms of sales.
Unfortunately, in terms of music, there isn't one tune here you could hum in the shower. Instead, you get 49 minutes of stodgy riffage as generic and forgettable as an order of french fries, mid-tempo sludge-rockers that don't even rock, let alone hold interest. The Nixons is the perfect soundtrack to apathy, music for people apt to be offended by any kind of artistic provocation.
In the past, singer Zac Maloy was happy to be a good soldier in an army of mini-Vedders, and his band content to be a Southwestern version of Candlebox. Inescapable comparisons aside, the Nixons are a good example of a band that makes music because it can, not because it has anything to say. Maloy tries to write stories that have something like a spiritual backbone, but his preachy little tales end up as pretentious, half-baked sketches. The vanity of beauty ("Miss USA"), an attempt to get into the mind of a hooker ("Shine"), or the love declaration of "Saving Grace" all sound hollow, especially when they're delivered with the intensity of a radio voice-over pro announcing yet another "biggest sale ever." His poetry is painfully stilted, with lines like "I'm the only will I lie/You're the face that I see when I'm far away" ("Leave"). Including a lyric sheet was not a good idea.
Only the ballad "December" stands out in its simplicity and shows some genuine warmth. Overall, the album fails to make any kind of emotional impact. Listening to The Nixons is as exciting as watching dry paint stay dry.