NOW THAT THE STROKES are back, we can reflect upon recent period from the past when every band that seemed to have a bright future in front of them was deemed “The New Strokes.” Given how prevalently the term was bandied about, it’s a shame that The Strokes became a casualty of their own overexposure, imploding under the weight of inflated expectations. Ironically, with their resurrection in the fledgling stages, The Strokes would probably be happy right about now if they could self-fulfill the prophecy and become “The New Strokes.” If that did come to pass, such a term would be anachronistic and passé. We’ve moved on since those days. Now, every band that emerges from nowhere with a cult-like following borne from the approval of the current critical tastemakers is billed as the “New Arcade Fire.” If you are reading this, I suspect I haven’t told you anything you didn’t already know.
On the heels of The Suburbs’ release, Arcade Fire took over Madison Square Garden for a pair of shows that became the de rigueur destination for anyone with a real or feigned interest in meaningful modern music. Despite being outed as robots by Terry Gilliam, Arcade Fire showed that they are rock stars in the same sense that we originally considered Bono a rock star: there is an uncontrived exuberance and earnestness that contagiously enlivens any size crowd. The only difference between the band that introduced Neon Bible to New York with five shows at the intimate Judson Memorial Church and the band on stage at Madison Square Garden was that they had more room on stage to parade about with unrestrained glee. They’ve even learned how to protect their own. On Wednesday night, when Butler took a moment to point out the New York crowd where Hakeem Olajuwon schooled the Knicks in the mid-90s, they launched into “Neighborhood #3 (Power’s Out)” before anyone could react. Choosing not to challenge (or possibly agitate) the Garden crowd with the politics of “Windowsill” or the existential angst of “My Body Is A Cage,” Arcade Fire wrapped up the night with the unescapably anthemic “Wake Up.” The song’s splendor dissipates by the final chorus but the joyous swell of twenty thousand voices singing the wordless opening notes in unison more than carries the moment.
On The Big To-Do, a third voice has emerged and it turns out it’s one that’s been there all along. Once you get past the fact that it belongs to longtime bassist Shonna Tucker, her gifts as a songwriter and vocalist reveal themselves in a startling and somewhat surprising display. In contrast to Hood’s somewhat comedic “Drag The Lake Charlie,” which concerns the fear that a friend’s thoughtless lapses might have a disturbing effect on his volatile spouse, Tucker posits a more resigned and defeated view amidst the soaring crescendos of “You’ve Got Another.” Cooley’s presence and let-me-tell-you-son bark isn’t as prominent as past efforts and The Big To-Do is heavy on Hood’s Springsteen-of-the-South narratives. Nonetheless, the Drive-By Truckers remain the preeminent chroniclers of the South and The Big To-Do is a fine return to form, unquestionably their best effort post-Isbell offering.
Over the last seven years U-Melt has enjoyed all the unique experiences of being a touring rock band. We have criss-crossed the country, released three albums, and built a family of amazing friends and fans throughout the US. Recently we have found ourselves struggling through the economic downturn along with the rest of the country. After much discussion we have decided that it is time to close this chapter of U-Melt.
Here’s to wishing Zac Lasher, George Miller, Adam Bendy, Kevin Griffin (and Salzer) the best in their future endeavors. I’m looking forward to the reunion shows in 2018.