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Saturday, July 26, 2008

There isn't much to say about modern pop groups

I get sent a ton of records. A surprising proportion of them are like Department Of Eagles. That's them on the left in the standard 2008 publicity shot. Hey, I know we're not rock star material but, look, we got our pal to knit in the background to prove we're not boring. Anyway I played their record and because it passed the first test by not being abrasive and noisy - I can't help it, I listen in the morning and I don't like loud noises unless I'm familiar with them - I played it quite a lot after that.

From listening to it I deduced two things: they were smart, or at least educated, sorts and they'd probably heard a lot of Van Dyke Parks. (The growing thicket of footnotes appended to rock history are increasingly the happy hunting ground of groups like Department of Eagles.) It used to be natural to find out more. That was in the days when there was something to learn. With a heavy heart I looked at their biog. I say with heavy heart because experience has taught me that what little there is to say about acts like this they are probably reluctant to tell us. If one of them has a parent who owns Coca Cola and the other once navigated the North Atlantic in a coracle, you can guarantee that they wouldn't tell us.

Like so many bands of today they met at university. Actually they're not really a band. If they were a band then one of them would not also be a member of another group at the same time. This is now standard for bands, particularly American ones. It's like in the Championship where half the players are on loan from over-resourced Premiership clubs. It's confusing. They have day jobs, which we should applaud, I suppose, but it does mean that they don't have that edge of guys who've held hands, closed their eyes and jumped off the cliff.

Right now there's probably some young hack on the Observer Music Monthly trying to cobble together a short introductory piece about them and probably thinking, there isn't much to go on here. When confronted with acts like this I wonder whether the ancient journalistic task of preparing the way for people like Department Of Eagles has just run its course. The idea that anyone would be inspired to listen to them by reading about their short lives or what they think about Barack Obama seems obsolete. Reading a great deal about something before hearing it belongs in the past. People don't do that any more, do they? Why bother when you can be nudged towards something instead? Of course you can still be prepared for something by reading about what a piece of music did to somebody else. But best of all you can get a taste for no charge.