breakdown (the chicken)

Apologies to readers for how little of what I'm supposed to be doing here has actually appeared here over the last couple weeks. It's a busy season with whatever I do for a living.

And so: I got the Mahjongg LP in the mail the other day, and the one-sheet says that Cold Crush is putting it out on, um, sometime after now. (Just because I can, I looked it up on the Cold Crush website: 3/22/2005.)

The promotional angle taken on this one is tricky, or possibly just confused: "Way back in the day..."--I'm slightly paraphrasing here, as the copy is really fucked up and punky (ie, "way back intheeedddayyyyy99999MaHJ?ONHHGG")--"...Mahjongg ruled the charts...[the forthcoming album] RaYDONcoNG 2005 is the pinnacle so far of Mahjongg's five albums on Cold Crush...all the facets of their platinum-plus sound."

Being passingly familiar with Mahjongg, Cold Crush and Call Girl PR, who sent me the disc + press release, I'm inclined to think that the copy is not the fault of the latter party. So, I'm not shooting any messengers today. But here's the position I'm dealing with: over-the-top sarcasm suggesting the implausible and false multi-platinum and large-back-catalogue stature of this band. But that's no big deal. I'm used to, like, totally not being serious, as well as watching kids from undergroundland fetishizing popularity positioned as the new and titillating and safe and indie-friendly ur-popularity. I think we used to call it "doing it for the wrong reasons," and its eventual outcome "selling out," but I understand this kind of name-calling is just passe, reductive, etc., these days.

Where that first bit of copy above gets tricky is when the press release goes on to state that Mahjongg's "debut EP...announced a big noise in the music world." Did anyone else hear that noise? I'm still hearing silence. But, within the scope of this one-sheet's agenda, I'm not sure if I'm supposed to take this statement seriously. Is everything in this press release supposed to be read in terms of the absurdist exaggeration of the opening lines noted above? My guess is no, and that whoever wrote this thing is just trying to sneak in the idea that Mahjongg is, well, relevant. Because the copy goes on to say that "Mahjongg is basically a bar band that got lucky," which works as self-deprecation, except that I don't see how this band ever got lucky (a Cold Crush deal?). So it's just more of the sort of "This Band Has Arrived" proclamations that indie publicists spend all day trying to get across--merely wrapped in we-don't-give-a-fuck rhetoric.

People who write promotional copy are schemers, I'm telling you. Unpack that shit.

In all honesty, I was actually a little surprised that there wasn't much excitement over the band's first EP (I really like at least half of Machinegong, and the full-length is moving on me). Not to get all Pitchfork-is-runnin'-things-indie, but I think that site is a pretty good indicator of what is popular in Indie Rock--and, as far as I can tell, the EP wasn't even reviewed there. Mahjongg strikes me as so perfectly of-the-moment and fashionable (and I say that with no hidden criticism, but rather as a suggestion that Mahjongg is so potentially hot!), except for that they're not yet hot. But maybe that's just me. Again: did I somehow miss the impact this band made? I'm willing to be persuaded.

The frustrating upshot of all of this is that the one-sheet really does attempt to satirize the act of record promotion via the use of promotional tools like one-sheets. For example: "For Fans Of: ...Duck Rock...Razor Scooters...Oxygen" and "Exists In the Same World As: ...Digital Cable...Indonesian Is the New Sumatran." I'm not completely insensitive to the idea that the promotion of pop art can be really dodgy, but the sardonic sentiment strikes me as a little disingenuous when it comes in a readymade promotional tool sent with this commodified piece of art by a company that gets paid to enable bands to make a "big noise." Although, this let's-sell-the-music-alongside-the-message-that-selling-the-music-is-lame stance is kind of a normal maneuver for indie rock PR, methinks.


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