Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Garage Band Experience

Do you know what a garage band is? Of course you do. It's a band playing in a garage, that is to say an amateur band practicing their skills in some remote basement with no audience at all (apart maybe from the lead singer's girlfriend lying on the coach and ready to clap her hands at every moment of silence).

The Bank is not a garage band. The Bank never played in a garage and The Bank never felt they had to practice their skills before recording anything, since The Bank believes in spontaneity and raw energy. The Bank is not really a real rock band either, since it is merely an algebraic equation consisting in:

(Pierre Alexander + Sebastian Stelzer)/(The Quakers + Kettering)² = England for sale

But The Bank did put a couple of their songs up for review on, just to see what people would say about their work.

Here is the Garage Band punch line:

"Are you a musician? Get your music heard! Enter the contest to get reviewed by new fans & compete for exposure from Feed Partners.

OPTION 1: Earn a contest entry by reviewing music. Review 15 pairs of songs by other artists (only 9 if you become a Gold member). "

And here is how it works: you review other people's music (songs go by pair and you rate them from 0 to 5 along with the writing of a short review) and then you earn the right to submit your songs for review. Which is exactly what we did for a couple of our beloved tracks.

And here are some of the results:

This is England

- "Drunken Germans pretending to be Brits", says xroomate from L.A. "The keyboard piano part reminds me of threescompany, cool. Nice grooviness to the tune", which is really an ugly piece of abuse to the Bishop Stopford School Music Department, considering the "keyboard piano" is actually a real hammer piano.

- "happy sounding pop song about Nazism in England, sung by a person with a German accent. I'm not really sure WHAT I think about it. I hope it's complex sarcasm or a joke", says door64 from Seattle. "Nothing major wrong with production, composition, or performance, all well done, nothing sticks out. Well, except the words, which SEEM to be a contemplation of right wing inspired mass murder justified in the name of a sense of personal comfort and security." Well seen, Mr door64, it IS a song about xenophobia in the UK and blind slaughtering is suggested in some part of the song.

- "Are you making fun of British lads or what (I'm not one of them)?" asks viceromania from Bucarest. Interestingly, the guy says "I'm not one of them", which is exactly what I thought during my whole time there.

- And now the opinion of mishapscott from Wisconsin: "I think I've heard the opening piano line in the intro song to an 80's sitcom or something. When the singing kicks in, it reminds me of Roger Waters doing his best character impressions on The Wall", while pyoor from Arizona says: "The tune itself would make a great TV ad song" and tries "to figure out if this was supposed to be funny or a joke or something". Slobrock from Norway shares this bewilderment: "This is a song that I can't figure out if it is serious or not. The production sounds decent, but is it some German dudes singing about UK?"

And in conclusion, the shock of the extremes:

- the blind and cheerful approval of Joe from Ohio: "Keep on keepin on this tune is awsome hope you guys go far in the near future"

- the ultimate declaration of disgust from xhead666, Lehi, Utah: "UUUGGHHHH......WOW - this has to be one of the worst songs I've ever heard. Lyrics are really dull. I don't even think this is singing, more like melodic talking."

Mother Belly

- Awful start from paulrocks in Florida: "this song sucks and you guys must be from europe for making weak shit like this", which made me think ot the worse. But this review was to be tempered a bit by the next one. "Interesting calm mood", says EduCesar from Brazil, "but I don't like the mixing. Lead vocals are ok, but I'd like to hear this with more emotion. I like the melody, sounds like New Order sometimes. As for the chord structure, I find it interesting."

- "Weird Lyrics" is what LovetheBand from New York seems to have retained from the song. "The piano/organ makes me think I'm in church. The lyrics are really weird. Who is this Mother Belly? Is it some woman who is taking advantage of a little boy and makes him a man? Why is she telling the little boy to drink a lot? Isn't that illegal? I had to listen to this song twice to make sure I heard it right. " You heard it right, comrade, but I guess you've never been to Kettering. Then you would understand for sure. "Where is the group from?, he eventually asks. "The singer (or shall I say talker) has a accent I haven't heard before." Well, we're from Kettering, Northants.

- Ilike20 from Midwest goes into details: "The intro with just the plain open chords drags on too long. It seems to take too long before anything happens in this song. The vocals were completely unexpected. A very unique sounding voice unlike any others I've listened to in a long time. The harmonies were good, but they didn't seem to mesh with the lead vocalist for me."

- Writing from Italy, vastospino really dug the song: "A Leonard Cohen-like voice develops a delicate poetry", he writes, "as organ chords draw a nice progression with some maj chords, am I wrong? It's not easy to understand it...This is an intimistic song focused on the lyrics,even distorted guitars remain in the background, not to disturb the correct expression of the vocal line. I like the arrangement: you've chosen a few instruments, making them work together in an interesting way."

- But it didn't quite meet the taste of Mr Fantasgreat from Portland, Oregon: "Your vocal reminds me of Urge Overkill's Girl, You'll be a Woman Soon. Your lazy delivery style and low range are very similar. This song puts me to sleep. It doesn't create much interest for me as a listener. The drums are static throughout the entire song and there is very little dynamic difference throughout the track. Combine that with your delivery style, and it's destined to be as effective as Sleepy-Time Tea"

- And at last the complete review of plingativator from Vancouver, Canada, which gives you but a taste of what to expect if you submit a track to a Garage Band listener and get lucky enough:

"The bass line just after 1:00 picks up the song nicely, it's slow to grow but at this point it does exactly what it needs to do. When the distorted guitar comes in around 1:44 it doesn't seem to fit very well. The rest of the music is organ, mellow base, and subdued drums. The guitar just kind of ruins that mood. The vocals in the chorus are probably my favorite part, but the guitar underneath ruins them a little bit. I'm not surewhat kind of accent that is exactly during the verses, sounds French, but the Union Jack reference throws me. Either way it is interesting to listen to. The song could have ended around 4:07, I don't think the last few piano chords add anything to the song, and they drag it out in an unsatisfying way. I think the song could be really relaxing to listen to, but that distorted guitar really wrecks that for me, I would definitely consider removing it or toning it down, it just doesn't fit for me. Everything else is great."

So this is it, my dear fellow musician garage reader: if you hold something in store and you're not oversensitive, consider entering the contest. The funny part is: what they can do to you, you can do it to them and hit back with spiteful reviews if you're in the mood for it. My first review as a listener was a real success and earned me an e-mail of abuse (in my garageband mailbox) from the artist I dared to criticize a bit. But it doesn't happen all the time, far from it, and it's an interesting experience to apply one's judgement on other stuff rather than Coldplay's last single, trusting only your ears without any kind of prejudice.

The Garage Band Experience now awaits you.

PS: on the right of your screen you should be able to listen to the two songs whose reviews have been quoted here. If you are to write a comment about these songs, feel free to it except if you're from one of these localities: Kettering, Corby, Peterborough, Luton, Market Harborough, Bedford.

Sincerely Yours,

Pierre Alexander

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