Getting to Know Us

Interesting thing about the current media fawn-fest surrounding our cover boys, the Secret Machines: Almost every national article about the rock band mentions their Dallas heritage. Spin, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone. I've never met the guys, and suspect I never will, but it still gives me a little hometown thrill reading our city's name, like the team I was rooting for finally won. Dallas love: Keep it coming.

It's interesting, though, because the Secret Machines never actually played in Dallas. As Robert Wilonsky's cover story explains, the members earned a modicum of success in other bands (Captain Audio, UFOFU, Tripping Daisy) but moved to New York in hopes of a lucky break. The Dallas mentions probably come from a desire to set the band apart from the scruffy indie rockers currently clogging Brooklyn sidewalks, making everyone roll their eyes the second they hear the words "garage" or "New York." See, the Secret Machines aren't just another Brooklyn band; they're a Brooklyn-by-way-of-Dallas band.

That's fine by me. The more people know about D-FW music, the better the scene becomes. And right now, that scene is surprisingly good. Maybe better than it's been in years, with critically acclaimed albums from such diverse bands as Midlake, the New Year, the pAper chAse and the Burden Brothers, plus upcoming releases from Eisley, the Polyphonic Spree, the Old 97's and the Deathray Davies. Dallas may never break as a major scene; but with a little nudge, it could.

I'm reminded of that at unexpected times. Twice while driving home from work, I've heard Pleasant Grove songs on NPR's Marketplace. Just the other day, I was folding clothes and watching The Real World: San Diego when Sorta's "Crazy" started to play. "Oh, I like this song," I thought absently, as the blond girl knocked back another tequila shot. "Wait--I know this song," I thought next, followed by the realization that I was, in fact, going to see that very band the following night. Obviously I got excited: Why else would I admit to watching that stupid show?

Then again, some Dallas bands are garnering the wrong kind of attention for the city. Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 gives a dubious spotlight to Drowning Pool, whose song "Bodies" became a battle cry to soldiers during the invasion of Iraq. They'd blast it from the tanks: "Let the bodies hit the floor," the song goes. Not exactly the association I hope people make with the Dallas music scene, but unfortunately, one that probably reaches a lot more people than the Secret Machines.

Reality bites: In case you were one of the many man-children not chosen in last weekend's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy lack-of-talent search, not to worry. Reality television has made one thing clear: There's always another opportunity to humiliate yourself and win free furniture. Or, if you're lucky, to front an '80s rock band!

Last week, INXS announced they would put together Rock Star, a reality show designed to replace late singer Michael Hutchence, who died in 1997 of an apparent suicide (or autoerotic asphyxiation, depending on whom you ask). It's a good-bad thing. Good because INXS was the most exciting thing to happen to me in eighth grade (which, admittedly, was a rather dull year). Good because I like reality television--at least, I don't despise it like those tsk-tsking cultural critics, who bemoan the loss of sitcoms as if Home Improvement and The Nanny were some kind of cultural boon. Good because "Never Tear Us Apart" and "Need You Tonight" are 10 times better than 75 percent of the songs performed on shows like American Idol. But bad, too, because it's self-promotion disguised as music-making, because it's a credibility nose-dive for a band that actually meant something to people, because it's doubtful kids and teens will tune in for a band whose hits charted before they learned to crawl, and because more and more, it seems like people can't do anything without Mark Burnett and a camera crew. It's all gotten so blasted lame.

That doesn't mean I won't enter, of course. You may be reading the words of the future Mrs. INXS: I'm gonna be so effing famous! Bring it!

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Sarah Hepola