By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Triprocket's 1997 eponymous release sounds like Madonna's Ray of Light waiting for the Garbage 2.0 update--which is sort of ahead of its time, if you forget about the fact that Garbage's first record sounded just like its second. But, hey, there are worse female vocalists that Brasell could strive to imitate. If you're going to play the role of a post-disco disco diva, you can't go too wrong dressing down Shirley Manson like a virgin--unless, of course, you want to get the attention of adults.
Therein lies the biggest drawback of Triprocket. While the tin clank and crisp guitar recycling beneath Brasell's tawny vocals on a track like "Resuscitate" could pass for any of the not-at-home-in-a-house-mix pop that skips through commercial radio, the lyrics are all bubble gum that lost its flavor. Even a band as twee and teenybop as 'N Sync would have trouble lip-syncing lines like "My lips, under your kiss / Sensation, under your touch / My will, under your control / Yeah, down to the soul / Don't you know, you're too much." Then there's the staticky Suzanne Vega leftover "En Route," on which Brasell rasps, "I can't drown the thought of you / When I smell you in the wind." Um, gross? Isn't dance music supposed to make you get hot and sweaty and want to rub up against people of the opposite--or, hell, we're not bashful, the same--sex? This makes us want to dab on a little Right Guard.
Jump Rope Girls
Winner for: Avant-Garde/Experimental
"We really weren't expecting a lot of eyes to be on us," says Casey Hess--the singer, songwriter, and utility-infielder for Jump Rope Girls. He punctuates his comments with brash laughter, insisting, "We were just fucking around." Well, damn, that's pretty much the working definition of "experimental." But in the vernacular of the record industry, where most releases are reserved for not only well-proven but well-calculated bands, even that's a little too glib. Usually "experimental" simply means something a little too fringe for normal folk. Experimental records go wood. Of course, Jump Rope Girls is a One Ton Records band, which means it's already renting land in the margins, sharing an apartment with Hess' other band, the locally adored Doosu. Hess says that when he, keyboardist Bobby Maloney, and artist-programmer Don Relyea wanted to create a "casual art project" based on ideas they got while "hanging out at the Green Room drinking," One Ton honcho Aden Holt let them plug into a computer and discover what came out. It's not as if they had much to lose. This isn't Doosu here. Or Buck Jones, for God's sake.
As side projects go, the Jump Ropers aren't the most, ah, avant kids on the block. (Maloney and Relyea's Jump Rope Girls offshoot Rope Lab fits that bill better.) There's a reason this band did well with readers in two other categories, Industrial/Dance and New Band, with Hess also garnering a place-show nod in the Musician of the Year balloting. People like the Jump Rope Girls because the band's recently released debut (eight track demos) is as "pop" as "experimental" gets--it's got a beat, you can dance to it, blah blah blah. The opening track, "Forgetting How," could even sneak its way onto a Doosu record if it weren't for the chirping of Maloney's Moog-music giving its techno self away. No matter how far out the songs get, no matter how many roboto bleeps and bips and loops and samples get tossed into the mix, Hess' tunes, full of singsong melodies, keep it all from straying too far from home. Something like "Looking for Monsters" is equally beautiful and haunting, a warm and painful embrace played out on acoustic guitar. Yet by record's end, Hess slips almost completely into Relyea and Maloney's mechanical ambience. The vocals give way to vibrations, until eight track demos doesn't just end; it melts.
Perhaps the biggest problem the Jump Rope Girls face is success; Hess has Doosu duty now that its latest, Aqua Vita, is out. "This was not ever intended to intrude on anything," Hess says, insisting Jump Rope Girls will take a back seat to his full-time band's schedule. "Don and Bobby and I just wanted to do something unorthodox, just see what would happen when we played some music, turned some knobs, ran it through a computer. Well, I guess using a computer is not that unorthodox anymore." But not to worry--we won't take the Avant-Garde/Experimental award away from the band this time around.
Winner for: Cover Band
So you don't have to be an old band, a dead band, a revolutionary band, or a hugely famous and long-lived band to have some guys get together and exclusively cover your songs. You'd think that with the way musicians in this town rehash the warmed-over catalogs of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Grateful Dead, there's some unspoken rule about only covering bands that wrote a shitload of tunes and then either broke up or started sucking. But a cover band that picks as its patron saint an act less than a decade old and not so prolific? Hell, if it sounds good, why not?