By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
The Makers are a much-respected, fuzzed-out, '60s-retro-psychedelic garage group who have been around forever, put on great live shows, released a ton of albums and recently put out a concept album called Rock Star God. Unlike their previous lo-fi trash rock, Rock Star God is clear, crystalline, glam, over-the-top, and covered in velvet and rhinestones. It says, quite loudly, "Hey! Look at me! Check me out! Get to know me!" while whispering, in a semi-embarrassed fashion, "By the way, I sound like Meat Loaf."
Meat Loaf is not cool. The Makers are supposed to be cool, though. If any such discrepancy starts the back-peddling critical lambada, it's this one, and the critics are already gushing about how this album is an ironic-post-ironic-not-really-ironic-stylistic-meta-style-ironic-commentary-statement-or-is-it-that-says-nothing-and-everything-at-the-same-time-which-is-quasi-ironic-but-not-in-the-way-you-think. Or something like that.
Critics are to irony (or perceived irony) what flies are to cowpies. Well, kind of, but more like if before getting jiggy with the poo, the flies felt somehow compelled to make a convoluted speech about it.
Maybe there's brilliance afoot here and it's going over my head. Maybe I just don't get it. Maybe I just don't like the songs that much. Yes! That's what it is!
And it's important to like the songs because, let's face it, the music you like you like for emotional, visceral reasons, not logical ones. You can understand something and appreciate it, even respect it, but you might not like it.
And the music you do like you probably liked for some subterranean, wordless reason first and then, in thinking about it, came up with the reason that you like it. Critics can and will tell you what you should listen to and why. Everyone in the world can tell you why you should like a band, but if you just don't feel it, then there's always going to be this nagging voice in your head telling you you're listening to Meat Loaf.
And the issue of respect is a whole other complicated, crap-filled monkey on the average listener's back. The Makers have been around since 1991 and up until recently released all their lauded albums on indie Estrus, and you just don't say anything bad about Estrus.
Rock Star God and the one that came before it, Psychopathia Sexualis, were released on the Sub Pop label, which isn't as überindie-cool as Estrus, but it's not a major label, either. The Spokane quartet has also appeared on hundreds of compilations and toured extensively through the US, Europe and Japan. What all these trappings communicate—what they're supposed to communicate—is that this is a hardworking, down-to-earth band that's been around for a while and isn't about to forget its roots and reach for the glittery-flashy-transient aspects of Rock Stardom.
Which is ironic because their latest album is glittery and flashy and all about Rock Stardom. But that, you see, is irony. It's a Statement. And if it isn't, the critics will fill in the gaps and make excuses and find a way to understand how it is that this well-respected band has made something that sounds like Meat Loaf because the Makers are a band you're supposed to like and respect.
But respecting a band's work ethic is one thing. Liking them is another.
According to their press bio, in order to understand this new Rock Star God album, you should "think nightmarish Dickensian street urchins weaned on methamphetamine and hell-bent on chaos." Yes! Yes! That's exactly what I was thinking! Like a train wreck, but Pip is the conductor and Miss Havisham is tied to the tracks and Meat Loaf is a stowaway in the caboose—but on acid! Or maybe one of James Joyce's Dubliners on shrooms! And acid! Or think Jane Eyre on Ecstasy, looking for heartache! Yeah! Or a really stoned Jonathan Livingston Seagull!
Smoke and mirrors, these publicity rantings are. Bullshit of the highest order, 50-cent words and purple prose.
Which isn't that different than what the critics write, I suppose, because words sound good, but no amount of words can make music, something with which you connect emotionally, sound different than it sounds.
Unless you like Meat Loaf, who's like the Great Gatsby and Holden Caulfield passed out in a gutter after a night of chasing the dragon, but if before they passed out in the gutter in a pile of their own vomit, they'd been at a rave, but not just any rave, but rather one where someone spiked their GHB with Vicodin, and also before that, they'd had a couple of fillings worked on and were still feeling the effects of the nitrous. Like that . . . but on acid.
the makers play with the bangs and the Fabulous Tuscaderos at the foothill, 1922 Cherry Ave., Signal Hill, (562) 494-5196. Sat., 9 p.m. $10. 18+.