In a few weeks, The O.C. will quietly go off the air, an unceremonious end to a show that did more to promote indie rock (as adolescents aged 13-17 now know it) than perhaps any other medium, ever. Thanks in part to early episodes full of Death Cab for Cutie name-drops and Modest Mouse songs, the television audience simultaneously met Newport Beach's fictional elite and indie rock's real-world darlings—bands who'd been around for years, treading water in big-but-not-huge venues with good-but-by-no-means-great record sales. By season's end, it wasn't just that adorable Seth Cohen who kids were talking about, but Ben Gibbard and Isaac Brock and Sufjan Stevens, too: What is this new music? And where can I get it? All of which makes the silent demise of The O.C. the more interesting, since its freefall into cancellation begs some pretty hefty questions: Does this mark the end of indie rock as well? Might Death Cab's next album sell only 9,000 copies—instead of 90,000—in its first week? And what of the countless next generation bands—the bands who formed because of bands like Death Cab and sound a lot like them, too?
It wouldn't quite be fair to pronounce this sound dead (yet). But a dying sound—which it very well might be—is a little different. There is still room for invention and new directions (for last gasps and deathbed reconciliations), which is exactly what makes a band like Long Beach/Riverside/Big Bear foursome Ann Lynn interesting to watch. Consider their curious country take on Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street": it's one thing for an indie band to cover '80s cover songs and replace the synths with handclaps; it's another when lead singer Josh Pool (a 75/25 mix of Ben Gibbard and Jeff Tweedy) peels straight to the core of Gabriel's sadness with a slight tremble in his voice, reimagining the original song's muted world beat melody with a quiet snare beat and acoustic picking. "A lot of music writing is nostalgia," says Josh. "'Mercy Street' means more to me than any other song."
To prevent fading away, Ann Lynn should continue to make more moves toward the honesty and depth of "Mercy Street." On What Love's Meant to Be, for example, songs like "Bechelli" and "Gnarl Carl" come off well-written and catchy (clearly the boys can play) but fall flat when compared with the EP's first two tracks, "Coward's All the Rage" and "The Scene." Offering political and social commentary (respectively) with sweet sing-along choruses, it takes a good listen or two to these songs before you realize this isn't TheO.C.anymore. Here you have a band with varied views on life and politics ("We're a political melting pot—a political mosaic," says band member Steve Dunlap; "'Coward's All the Rage' was inspired by what you could call politics, but more so the vulnerability of our generation—so many people just jumping on the first political bandwagon that seems interesting enough to build a point-of-view off of," explains Josh) and when you throw that into the song writing process the result is something valid, something people can latch on to, even if they don't always agree with it. At the very least, a move like this would gain them even more fans—at the most, it might save their careers.
ANN LYNN PLAY WITH THE COLOUR AND DELTA SPIRIT AT DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19th ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-0600; WWW.DETROITBAR.COM. MON., 9 P.M. 21+. FREE.
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