"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 11 December 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

MIDI Vanilli


[Chemical Brothers]

Last time sales were flatlining

in the music biz, they gave us

the CD. This time, it might take

something more clever. The pink

slips for label chiefs, those

Chapter 11s, the massive

programming changes at MTV - all

a great start. But then what?



It's a given that Trent Reznor

can doll himself up like Edward

Scissorhands, sit on Kennedy's

lap and move a few hundred

thousand units of his latest

mope opera. But if the marketing

geniuses at Id were nimble

enough to coerce him into

knobbling the soundtrack to

Quake, why not go the distance?

Sink some of that virtual blood

money into independent promotion

and spin a video into heavy

rotation. After all, the only

thing better than a four-minute

commercial for a $15 CD is a

four-minute commercial for a $50




But the NIN/Quake coupling was a

no-brainer, music by and for

scrawny white kids looking to

make a killing, even if only in

their suburban dreams. What

about previous dud hybrids from

such esteemed Geritol rockers as

Aerosmith and the Rolling

Stones? One could swipe a clue

from Ronnie Montrose, whose

"experiments with blues" grace

the soundtrack to Sega's Mr.

Bones. "I haven't even played

Mr. Bones," he admits. "I

couldn't get through the game if

I wanted to." Neither could

anybody else.



Similarly, though the analog

ragtime and bluegrass melodies

on Dreamworks's The Neverhood

are no less than superb, the

trajectory of these times

follows a long, thin crystal meth

line. Which explains why the

poster for the Wipeout

Soundtrack sits next to that of

Prodigy, techno's Spinal Tap, in

the window of your local Sam

Goody. From the turntable to

Mountain Dew commercials to your

Playstation, the Chemical

Brothers may need to simulcast

their next family reunion.



So it's goodbye Alternative

Nation - wish we could say we

hardly knew ya - hello "Amp" and

"Phat Ass." Today, a band like

Trans Am, who sound like nothing

if not Donkey Kong Jr., can be

celebrated as an ironic

postrock cause célèbre. Tomorrow,

they'll be on Nintendo's payroll

and getting play on the "Indie

500." The day after tomorrow, it

won't just be Thomas Dolby

plinking out tunes for WebTV.



Some will call it progress;

others will reconsider VH1,

muttering "What is this crap?"

in their very best Beavis.

Either way, a good sound card,

quality headphones, and bad case

of tunnel vision will be


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