erasing clouds

Huckster, self-titled

reviewed by ben rubenstein

I hear my dad complain almost daily about how things just aren't the same anymore, that everything new is bad. The best movies of today can't hold a candle to The Great Race or Some Like It Hot, and forget about having an open mind about rap music ("They're just talking, they're not even singing! And there's no actual music!"). According to him, everything that I might think is great is, well, just a lesser version of something that happened decades ago. In short, I know nothing.

But my dad may have a point when it comes to current rock music. What hasn't been done before? Not only does it all sound very similar, nearly every new band that arrives on the scene can immediately be pegged as a direct descendant (read: copycat) of someone from the 60's or 70's. There's the new garage rock trend of the Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Vines, The White Stripes; we can thank Led Zeppelin and the Velvet Underground for spawning these guys. And how about Interpol (Joy-Division wannabes) or The Shins (Beach Boys)? It can get to be a little disheartening, all of these groups doing what's already been done. That being said, some do it better than others. I don't care if Pavement sounds like The Fall, they make me happy. At least they know how to pay respect to their influences.

But then you have groups like Huckster. Advertised as "mixing the melodic panache of the Beatles with the cool alternative pop of U2", the band is unafraid of being labeled as a rip-off. They are also not afraid to put out an album that is pretty much devoid of any excitement or staying power. It doesn't help that the lead singer sounds like the guy from Savage Garden (not exactly the vocal force of John Lennon or Bono), or that there's a whole lot of sickly-sweet lyrics to make the album as pop-oriented as possible. Alternative?

The opener, "Drives Me Crazy", probably has one of the more memorable hooks on the album, and also sounds like it could be played in heavy rotation at the local Wal-Mart. Yes, it's that threatening. Not that all music should have a razor-sharp edge to it, but the song just wallows along on its jangly beat, never really going anywhere. "Superhero" is another annoyingly sweet tune, one you'll think you've heard countless times before and tried to rid from your mind unsuccessfully. It's back now, and it's never leaving. "Always (Falling Out of Your World)" finally offers a semblance of guitar, but features a grating, clichéd chorus, with the two singers dueling in their nasal tones. The most successful track, "Those Wonderful Waves", drifts along as it should, a light pop ballad that flutters and even gets your head nodding a bit. It sounds a little like their real predecessor, Oasis (Beatles imitators themselves). Of course, "Wonderwall" and "Champagne Supernova" packed a little more punch than these bubble-gum songs.

Believe it or not, those first four songs constitute the strongest part of the album. The final seven tracks are much of the same, with even fewer hooks and more whiny vocals ("Let Me In", and "Looking for the Light" in particular). It's unfortunate that this band couldn't live up to its billing; a mix of the Beatles and U2 would've been quite interesting and maybe even enjoyable, depending on how much U.K. rock a person can take. This, however, is really none of the above. If you're going to listen to derivative music, why not at least listen to something good? Leave Huckster for the soft-rock fan in your life (we all have one).

Issue 22, April 2004

this month's issue
about erasing clouds

Copyright (c) 2005 erasing clouds