This week’s episode of The Next Great American Band introduced the show’s American Idol-like phase, where the remaining bands go head-to-head in the hopes of winning the love of a small sliver of America. (Ratings on the show plunged 20% from the week before, coming in behind WWE SmackDown.) This week, the remaining bands had to embark on the near-impossible task of covering one of American music’s biggest icons–think I’m Not There, only the part of Cate Blanchett is played by Michael Keaton’s kid. Badly.
The 12 finalists–yes, the powers that be narrowed down the field pretty quickly, although I’m kind of glad that I didn’t have to sit through three weeks of fortysomething dudes in clown makeup trying to be “seriously” “funny”–were forced to play two songs on this week’s episode: An original song and a Bob Dylan cover. Because that’s what every up-and-coming band does when they want to really overreach, of course! As you might expect, the results were decidedly mixed-bordering-on-bad, although there were a few bands who almost redeemed the concept–or at least they would have if not for the large Dylan pictures that were looming over them on video screens as they tried to knock on heaven’s door.
THE GOOD: The drumless, picking-and-shredding-old-instruments trio the Clark Brothers tore through a pretty decent version of “Maggie’s Farm,” while Franklin Bridge showcased its completely sick drummer on “Tangled Up In Blue” and an original song that it dedicated to the victims of the California wildfires.
THE BAD: The Hatch–a.k.a. “the band with Michael Keaton’s kid”–not only played a wedding-band version of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” the lead singer almost took out his bass player while he was careening around the stage. The Likes of You–a Los Angeles band who didn’t even rate a bit in the show’s opening episode (Zombie Bazooka Patrol, you are still missed)–gave “Blowin’ In the Wind” the “Brown Eyed Girl” happy-boogie treatment. And the alt-rock-by-numbers outfit Dot Dot Dot somehow decided to transform “Like A Rolling Stone” into a buzz ballad; the results were slightly better than what Eve 6 might have done with it, but when you’re trotting out that comparison, you know things are pretty dire.
WOMEN IN ROCK WATCH: And so we come to Rocket, the all-female band from Los Angeles who, the front-”sexy lady” (she asked to be called that) claims, is “just as good as any boys out there.” They’re a competent-enough pop-punk band, although said frontwoman is all stage presence–flipping hair, bouncing, fingerless gloves–and no vocals. Their version of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” saw lyrical interpretation as an afterthought, although their original track wouldn’t have sounded out of place at the tail end of a Lookout! sampler from 1996. On the bright side, the lead singer’s obvious lack of lung power prompted Johnny Rzeznik to utter the name “Siouxsie Sioux” on an Idol-produced telecast for the first time ever.
WHO WE VOTED FOR: Well, we would have voted for the Clark Brothers and Franklin Bridge had we not had social obligations on Friday night; as it was, we watched the show on DVR delay and missed the two-hour window for voting. (Also, why isn’t there a text-messaging option for voting on this show? Did the biz-dev department, upon seeing Band‘s Friday-night graveyard slot, get the hint that setting up a catchy short code for this show wouldn’t be worth the meetings?)
WHO AMERICA WILL PROBABLY CUT: Given that the ratings for Band have been so low, the first week of phone-in voting will probably come down to demographics/the power of “cute.” Which means that all the roots acts–the Rascal Flatts-in-training Sixeyes, the Clark Brothers, the bluegrassy Cliff Wagner–are probably safe. As is The Hatch, if only because of the lead guy’s looks/fame one-two punch. So who does that leave? The Muggs, who came off like a choogly bar band and weren’t even bad as much as unmemorable (even if one of them suffered a stroke), will be the first to go, and they’ll be followed by Dot Dot Dot, who may be even cheesier than any fake band dreamed up by Law & Order‘s writing team.
Next week: Two bands get the boot, and the 10 remaining bands run through the oeuvre of David Bowie–which sounds terrifying, although a spitfiery Clark Brothers version of “Little Wonder” could actually be kind of terrific. Are you listening, producers?