With Lollapalooza and Ozzfest canceled, our only hope for redemption hinges on the Buzz Bake Sale, which steps up to the plate for the eighth time this weekend. However, while the festival's stats this year are above average -- with bands like the Explosion and Muse -- that may not be enough to put it on the scoreboard. Though the lineup could be worse (be thankful there's no Ryan Cabrera) -- and it has been in past years (Hoobastank, be gone!) -- we'd have a better time bringing closure on this dismal year if the Bake Sale offered more than the predictable assortment of bedheads and headbangers who regularly come to town.
There are some good bands here that shouldn't be overlooked -- you just gotta sort through a lot of mediocrity to find 'em. So, assuming disaster doesn't strike and cause mass cancellations, let's take a brief look at who's performing: Korn: Undoubtedly the headliners of the show, Korn's music sounds like... Ah, why the hell even bother? You know what Korn sounds like. Either you love this kinda post-grunge metallic sludge or you think it's utter shit. Now, moving on...
New Found Glory: For some reason, these Coral Springs pop-punkers and Bake Sale regulars have topped the Billboard charts yet still ride coach on the local star tour bus while Chris Carrabba rests his feet comfortably on the dashboard. Not that New Found Glory is any different from the legions of other post-Green Day/NOFX clone bands -- that would be asking too much.
The Explosion: No longer a small-time indie-label band, the Explosion lost its contractual virginity to -- you guessed it -- Virgin Records. But that doesn't mean the guys have turned wuss-pop on us. In fact, their initial Virgin offering, Black Tape, hits harder than yer average major-label punk album. It's upbeat and catchy yet raw and rockin', closer to '77 than '97. The songs aren't as fast as the band's previous work, but that's just as well. Midtempo tunes worked fine for the Ramones.
One: Do these guys sound like they're from Seattle? You could say that, but you'd be selling the band short. The songs on One's self-titled EP have the rhythmic tendencies of the Seattle sound but possess far richer melodies than the monotonous droning of all those Alice in Chains wannabes. The band clearly spent time developing these songs rather than hastily stringing together a few riffs during practice.
Story of the Year: These guys used to be called Big Blue Monkey and supposedly sounded like the Deftones, so you'd think the indie-rock makeover would be an improvement. Well, we've never heard B.B.M, but S.O.T.Y flat-out S.U.C.K.S. Whine/scream/whine/scream... What's so wrong with, you know, singing? Change your name again, and start over.
Sevendust: The band refers to its latest album, Southside Double-Wide Acoustic Live, as a "recovery record," meaning they're trying to make up for past transgressions they've committed in their personal lives. They're also trying to do away with some of the studio tricks they used on past albums, opting for a more organic sound. But take away the electronics and loops and you're left with ordinary post-grunge rock.
The Used: Man, this stuff used to be called alt-rock, but even that term's too edgy for this light-as-a-feather fluff. The Used makes Justin Timberlake look like Sid Vicious. Somewhere out there, a Pepsi commercial is missing its soundtrack.
Taking Back Sunday: See the Used.
The Music: Britain's New Musical Express calls this band "potentially the most important group since Oasis." Too bad it sounds like Mötley Crüe aping Brit pop. Apparently, the European tastemakers are as clueless as our own purveyors of public opinion. Oh yeah -- try to come up with a better name, you silly wankers.
Muse: Not to be confused with the Music, these Brits more than make up for the aforementioned bit of limey lameness. There's a fine line between poppy and melodic, and Muse straddles it precariously, infusing well-crafted harmonies with big hooks and catchy choruses. It's heavy without being metal, infectious without being pop, and the band employs electronics without burying the music in a sea of synth. Splendid job, chaps.
Lit: Do you like coloring books? Good. Here's a coloring book rundown of Lit: Green Day meets the Hives meets the Offspring meets Matchbox 20 meets (insert flavor of the month here). Lit covers all the modern pop-rock bases. Nothing new or terribly exciting but far from the worst band of the weekend. If you've just been dumped, this is the kind of music that will remind you of your ex ten years from now. When you snap and try to kill the band, don't say we didn't warn you.
nonpoint: That's right -- the name's not capitalized, which is quite telling, actually. While nonpoint has the blessing of a major-label contract, the hard-rockin' four-piece hasn't gotten too big for its local britches (read: not utterly self-important), remaining in Fort Lauderdale long after bands a fifth as popular would have fled the region. Musically, you could call nonpoint a Buzz band, but that neglects Elias Soriano's thoughtful, passionate lyrics, like in the song "The Truth" from Recoil: "With the people getting richer/Off the people getting poorer/It's due for being over/There's justice on the way. " Not your typical I wanna-break-shit-cuz-I'm-pissed metal lyrics.
Lostprophets: With a tune entitled "Last Summer," Lostprophets should offer something sweet -- something that'd inspire you to run outside, hop in your woody, and head for the beach. But that song, while not bad, leaves the listener stuck in low tide with Green Day-inspired vocals over a generic alt-rock riff. Then on "The Fake Sounds of Progress," drummer-turned-vocalist Ian Watkins sounds like James Hetfield. Guess they're trying to mix it up. What's next, punk hip-hop?
Kottonmouth Kings: Oh shit, we jinxed ourselves. Kottonmouth Kings play punk mixed with hip-hop, which actually sounds better than you might think. That also means guest appearances by aging SoCal punkers, a novelty that's good for a few laughs. Yep, T.S.O.L.'s Jack Grisham and D.I.'s Casey Royer lend their voices while the Kings sample and rework songs written when they were in diapers. And you'd be correct to assume, as the name suggests, that these guys are major stoners. With albums like Rollin' Stoned and Hidden Stash, the band puts the bake in bake sale.
Skindred: OK, so the Kottonmouth Kings do the punk-hop thing. Ska-punk's been done more times than Jenna Jameson. Looks like the next logical combination is metal and reggae, and Skindred's all over it. You'd think more bands would've arrived at this interesting fusion, but except for thrash-reggae pioneers Bad Brains, no one has. Skindred stands out as a result, an inspired alternative to the nu-metal formula.
Presidents of the United States of America: Quirky, upbeat guitar riffs; clever lyrics; a vocalist with a personality... Oh shit, will the kids go for this? They will if there's any sense left in those fat, MTV-addled heads of theirs. After all, the Presidents were disbanded for the past seven years, so younger Buzzheads probably have no idea what these weird, angst-free geezers are about. Jeez, were the '90s that long ago?