By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Two weeks ago, when the news first broke that area new wave powerhouse Black Tie Dynasty was calling it quits, local music fans immediately found themselves choosing sides in the clash of two very opposing sentiments.
One contingent quite courteously lamented the band's breakup, thanked its members for their time and made sure to point out the band's impressive accomplishments—tours, radio play, decent sales—since releasing its 2005 EP, This Stays Between Us. It was all very sweet.
But the other side...well...those people seemed to praise the Lord that Black Tie Dynasty, a band whose sound was derivative of other '80s derivative-sounding bands, would no longer be spreading its sounds to an audience that appreciated its work only because they weren't aware of what had come before it.
In actuality, of course, each camp had its points.
Was Black Tie Dynasty reinventing the wheel? By no means. But their accomplishments in the past three or so years—chief amongst them, becoming a band whose name people outside of the local music community recognized—were impressive.
Still, in the band's eyes, those accomplishments weren't enough.
"There are many reasons that forced us to make this decision," frontman Cory Watson wrote in the press release announcing the band's breakup, "but we've been a band for the last 10 years...if something was going to happen, it would have happened by now...we felt it was time to turn the page."
The members of Black Tie Dynasty didn't just want local glory; they wanted the whole rock 'n' roll fantasy: stardom, fame, fortune, international recognition. When that dream didn't come true, and when it became clear that those things weren't going to be heading the band's way—at least, not any time soon—the band decided to cash in their chips and call it a day.
And, in one fell swoop, the band's run (aside from its scheduled final show on March 28 at the Granada Theater) came to an end.
But there are lessons to be learned here—like the fact that, no matter how impressive your band sounds, and no matter how engaging your live performance may appear to be, stardom doesn't just come knocking.
The old adage is, in fact, quite true: You have to work for it, and you have to fight for it. But, more important, you have to have the right sound, in the right place, at the right time—a lesson BTD learned the hard way. See, you can't pick up a tired old sound, call it your own and expect people outside of your hometown to care. Black Tie Dynasty tried that route and, to its credit, took it about as far as it could take it. Eventually, the band's potential hit its ceiling.
So maybe that's why on Friday night, as Rockwall electro-dance pop-rock outfit The Early Republic took to the stage at the House of Blues' Pontiac Garage to celebrate the official release of its new, self-titled LP, it was tough to fully get behind what the band was trying to do. Mostly because, a la Black Tie Dynasty, it's all been done before.
Sure, the band was captivating enough onstage—frontman Zane Latta proved an engaging focal point as he emoted and danced through the band's 45-minute set of synth-heavy dance-rock anthems, and bass player Dave Martinez played his instrument with all the fury of a mother goose protecting her roost—but it all felt too pre-packaged, too pre-determined, too...Los Angeles-like, really.
And even though The Early Republic's package came off better in person than it does on record, it fell on its generic face because it hardly felt like good ol' fashioned rock 'n' roll. Not even in the slightest.
Instead, it felt like a meager amalgamation of the bands that The Early Republic lists on its Myspace page as its influences (The Killers, Muse, The Bravery and, until last week when it mysteriously disappeared from the band's influence list, Black Tie Dynasty)—but only if those bands had never grown past the sounds of their initial outputs as, well, each one of them has, by now.
Maybe I'm just jaded. Because, honestly, The Early Republic, which, in an earlier incarnation had been known as The Momento and auditioned for the laughable Fox reality competition The Next Great American Band, is an enjoyable enough outfit for fans of corporately produced rock. And as Latta crooned to the crowd, singing his band's shiny, happy songs and a few '80s covers in case anyone in the audience didn't get where his band was coming from (Blondie's "Call Me," Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" and Modern English's "I Melt With You," which the band performed twice because it didn't have an encore prepared when the crowd stuck around for one), the audience at the Pontiac Garage lapped it all up, having a grand ol' time in the process.
But therein lies the problem. As nasty as the comments spewed by the haters of Black Tie Dynasty were in the wake of the band's breakup announcement, they make a good point: The Dallas music scene isn't going anywhere if it continues to try to thrive off the reincarnations and remodels of once-popular acts from other locations.
That's all The Early Republic is, really. As perfectly molded as its members may be for its sound, as practiced as its stage presence appears, as lowest-common-denominator dance-y as its music sounds and as good-time-inspiring as it seems to be for its loyal fans, the band is nothing more than the latest regurgitation of another tired old sound. Par for course, it seems, from certain sects of the Dallas music scene.
And what makes it all so frustrating: People keep supporting these products—which, let's face it, is all they are, considering that there doesn't appear to be much artistic merit behind these projects.
And so it goes, I guess: Welcome to the vicious cycle of Dallas music.