Chico Suave!

Photo by James Bunoan MAROON5/SCAPEGOAT WAX/AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN/WEST BEVERLY
CHAIN REACTION, ANAHEIM
TUESDAY, SEPT. 17

LA band Maroon5 must have a killer publicist. Michelle Branch drops their name in Spin, Radio & Records gives them its "Record of the Week" spot, the lead singer is supposedly boning Natalie Portman, and they're being interviewed by YM (it stands for "Young Miss," which tells you the demographic they're being marketed to). Then a couple of Sundays ago, we opened up our LA Times Magazine and saw the band in a fashion layout, sporting $1,300 jackets, $765 sweaters, $425 shirts and $2,000 Armani suits. Jesus H. Christ on a bike with a sidecar!

All that dough would feed, clothe and house us for a year, let alone about 10 local, struggling, more-deserving bands we know of. The photos of the band were telling as well—five guys in their early/mid-20s with alarmingly receding hairlines (save for guitarist James Valentine, late of OC's Square). Will they ever sell advertising space on their foreheads? Somehow, we wouldn't be surprised.

First, though, there were the opening bands to lambaste and ridicule.

Connecticut combo West Beverly made this task easy with their pedantic puke-punk swill, sort of like a cruddier Blink-182 (if that's possible) with tired, grating riffs augmented by a singer who leapt, flailed and pirouetted about as if trying to dislodge a vibrator misplaced up his arse. Funnier still, these kids had a song called "Sixth Grade," about how tortuous it all was and how hard it has been to overcome. Well, when the band all look like they're in seventh grade, we suppose there's still plenty o' hurt feelings. As therapy for West Beverly, we heartily recommend suicide. And as far as their home base is concerned, we've been to Connecticut once, and we got food poisoning. This band is merely the aural equivalent.

The parade of mediocrity continued with the stupidly named Amazing Transparent Man, which was basically West Beverly minus one guy and plus one backward ballcap, all stirred in with the singer's torturously whiny, neener-neener emo voice. This would be a good time to toss in a gratuitous Sopranos reference: you know how Adriana upchucked all over the table when she was being questioned by the FBI in last Sunday's episode? It's a little-known fact that the real reason for her Technicolor yawn was that the feds were forcing her to listen to Amazing Transparent Man. True, we tell ya!

After those first bands, Scapegoat Wax was like breathing clean air. They had a minor hit in the spring when KMXN 94.3 first revved up a deliciously catchy piece of hip-hop/funk called "Aisle 10 (Hello Allison)," which built them some decent momentum until the label they were on, the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal, went belly-up (they've since found another imprint). Their tunes are quite Sublime-y, and singer Marty James even sounds a bit like Brad Nowell, though that thing he's playing—something that looks like a guitar but seems to be a kind of sequencer/sampler doohickey—is not of this Earth. But their DJ was groovy, their music is fun and breezy, and their deafening bass lines gave us awesome back massages when we leaned against the Chain Reaction walls. They also have a bunch of songs about their Chico hometown—shocking if only that there are people still alive who admit to being from Chico. Chico suave!

As for Maroon5 (they used to be the alterna-sounding Kara's Flowers, and their autograph-seeking horde has loyally followed, which accounted for the squashed-in-tight crowd), we're afraid we can't give them much love, as much as we liked James Valentine's old band Square. The freeform, jazzy aspects of Square left Valentine ample room to fire off hot licks aplenty, but in the bland, watered-down R&B of Maroon5, Valentine sounds chained up—apropos, we suppose, for music-as-product that feels as mechanically manufactured as this does. Worse, the tunes are aimed at googly-eyed teenage girls who've outgrown the Backstreet Boys and 'NSync—you could truthfully pass off a lot of cuts on their album as being new BSB tracks, really. So Maroon5 then are essentially a boy band that plays instruments, just without the spiffy dance moves. But damn, they all look good, and the screaming, crying little girls who came out to this show sure understand what they're all about. So do the label people who were here (we could tell from the stench) with dollar signs in their eyes. We hope Maroon5 were at least allowed to keep those fancy suits.

 
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