June 27, 2006

Cute Fake band alert


So I got this press release today about this band from the early 1970s. It seems that Platinum Weird was destined to be huge until the mysterious and alluring female singer — the "songwriting partner, muse and soul mate" of Dave Stewart — flipped out and disappeared, leaving Dave curled up in a ball until Annie Lennox came along. The debut album was shelved... until now.

It's not entirely improbable — think Vashti Bunyan — but what smelled fishy was the link to the video clip from a forthcoming VH1 special that said, "Click below to see what Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Christina Aguilera, and Kelly Clarkson have to say about Platinum Weird."

Paris? Lindsay? Christina? Kelly? These are not the first people you think of in connection to some Fleetwood Manqué. But what they do have in common is that they've all had songs written for them by Kara DioGuardi. Despite an attempt to cover their tracks with a bunch of fake fan sites, a little Googling reveals that Platinum Weird is a new project from Stewart and DioGuardi. The ambitious artifice trumps even Huckapoo's.

I'm trying to figure out what bugs me more than other people about this. After all, the music isn't bad, I'm obviously all for artifice in pop music, and there's a respectable history of this kind of fakery in the rock biz: Green Day went undercover as the Network; XTC as Dukes of the Stratosphear; The Alarm as the Poppy Fields; INXS as Dogs in Space; Sum 41 as Pain for Pleasure; and of course Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines.

I think it's mostly that it's done too well. There's so much money and corporate clout behind the facade that it violates the spirit that's usually behind such projects, the DIY attempt to recapture anonymity or break out of a comfort zone.

And as Francis points out, there's also the fact that "Dave Stewart is not pretending to be someone else entirely, but is rather pretending to be a younger version of himself. It's not creating fiction, it's self-mythologizing, which is always a
bit unseemly." And that brings up the fact that while "young" Dave and "Erin Grace" look cute together in those faux 70s photos, a pic of actual Dave and Kara together drives home the fact that his "soul mate," having not aged since 1974, is a girl some 20 years younger than him.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Chris Butler -- member of the terribly underrated late 1970s Akron band Tin Huey, leader of the Waitresses, author of "I Know What Boys Like" and "Christmas Wrapping" and "I Could Rule the World If I Could Only Get the Parts", genuine rocknroll weirdo who did an entire album of one 69-minute long song with different bands doing three to four minute chunks, maker of one of the most undeservedly neglected great albums of the 1990s, and blogger -- where was I? Right, Chris Butler created the non-existent but Huge In Europe band Kilopop!, full of chirpy pop tunes and featuring a brilliant single called "Sure Wish He Wasn't Here" that in a more just and Clear Channel-free world would stand in fame along side "I Know What Boys Like" in the very small canon of Real Girl Songs Written By Boys.

Thinking about this some more... I said the project is done too well, but in many ways it is not. For starters there's the aforementioned use of tweenypoppers as talking heads, which undermines the realism. Then there's the tone which wavers uncertainly between pastiche and parody, especially in what I've seen of the VH1 special. Plus there's the fact that the conceit -- that this is the band only the coolest people have ever heard of -- puts you and me -- the audience who has never heard of them -- in the position being told that we're not cool. Worse, we're less cool than Kelly Clarkson. Um, no.

Something I find strange about it (as you said in the previous comment) is how poorly this obviously expensive hoax is being handled. I've never found anyone that thought that Platinum Weird was anything other than a Kara DioGuardi/Dave Stewart project. In fact, DioGuardi's involvement was what attracted me to the project in the first place. Also strange is the fact taht they don't even attempt to make their new material sound different from sub-Ashlee confessional rock (that's not a dig; I'm a big fan of Ashlee's collaborations with DioGuardi, and this sounds similar but with a less charismatic lead).

Although to be fair, you (and to a lesser extend I) are more plugged in than the target audience. I guarantee that a lot of people will be fooled -- perhaps not to the extent that they will believe it's literally true, but they will think there is some mystery that they should be in on.

Ah, but of course that gets at the heart of what this project is: an attempt to sell teen pop to people who think they're too old/cool for teen pop.

Suddenly I'm warming up to it a bit.

They've actually shown Platinum Weird videos more than once on VH1-Classic.

The video director credit is .... Elton John.

The first time I saw it I thought, how odd, a 70s band with a really modern way of filming a video. How could they be both ahead of their time and completely erased any 1970s musical history I've ever heard or read about?

I thought the same thing the second time, but then I had other things to do with my life.

Thanks for clearing some of this up. It's pretty low (though this is marketing, so whatever) to put them on a video classics channel, although it does complete the lie.

I wonder if EJ did actually direct the video?

I thought you might be over-reacting at first but there is an off-putting, heavily self-satisfied, 'we're-awfully-clever' air to the whole thing. And there's something sinister about successful musicians having a lark by pretending to be unsuccessful musicians (even if it is them?). Is it poorface? Well, then again, isn't it all about the music, man? After all the Monkees managed to record 'Writing Wrongs,' one of the finest overlooked weird tracks of all time.

The Monkees, of course, being a fine idea of a fake band I can really love. But then, there was nothing self-satisfied about them.

Dan, this was on The Insider last night, a long segment about this "lost mystery girl" and the band (complete with Pat O'Brien playing guitar in the studio with Dave Stewart in the studio!), but I knew it was bogus from the very first second. The "tributes" from Annie Lennox and Aguilara and others were so badly acted, and it was kinda silly.

Though one point: the "new" band supposedly has a new singer taking the missing girl's place, she's not supposed to be the same singer as in 1974.

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