Front-running mediocre bands is as predictable a feature of the indie rock scene as the penchant for drab, colorless fashion. For all the claptrap about preferring esoteric visionaries that are shunned by the mainstream, large chunks of "indie" culture are as prone to being led around like livestock as the fitted-cap crowd at the local sports bar: both are seemingly incapable of original thought, much less discernment between quality and media-inflated crap.

While arguments can perhaps still be made for past indie darlings like boring space/post-rock acts such as Bardo Pond and Mogwai (mood music for acid casualties? Art rock for the unimaginative?) or nihilistic noise-rock merchants such as Swans and their spawn (music therapy for partially-deaf, attention-addled aphasics? Interrogation tool at Abu Ghraib?), it's hard to imagine anyone finding even that much use for the They Were Wrong, So We Drowned by the Liars.

Jumping from the electroclash/dance-punk boat that scored them their initial acclaim – possibly just in time – but short on talent or ideas, the New York by-way-of-L.A. ex-art students' (a big warning) follow-up is a concept album (double big warning) based on German witch folklore (run away! run away!). This deliberately inscrutable dreck sounds like a mash-up of Enigma's chanting monks with Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, but more lacking in melody. Lauded by publicist-fucking hacks at Urb, Entertainment Weekly and Q, its critical success is a testament to the horrors of incestuous dementia.

Blonde Redhead, on the other hand, is a good band gone wrong. Their abrupt stylistic left turn – from Sonic Youth-styled dissonant rock epics to delicate, gauzy, ethereal ambient pop reminiscent of Cocteau Twins – demands a lot of their undeniably diehard fan base; especially when considering the only thing uniting their new album (Misery Is a Butterfly) and their first four is a love of sonic textures. While their last album, 2000's Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons, did feature a more tempered attack, it hardly prepared one for the listless, toothless and monotonous swoosh of Misery. Further, without the chaotic, arrhythmic churn to surround her, singer Kazu Makino's voice feels particularly thin, waifish and noticeably melody-challenged.

Yet as sure as you are to get into a fight with aforementioned cap-clad sports-bar denizens over Van Halen's (alleged) authorship of The Kinks' "Where Have All the Good Times Gone," callow indie music sheep will be heard trumpeting the virtues of these two bands' new albums, completely unaware the bands and their critical emperors are buck-ass naked.


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